I went into battle last Wednesday and it was quite the valuable life lesson for me.
As I’ve written previously, I’ve been coaching wrestling this season at Port Hardy Secondary School and it’s been a lot of fun so far. I’ve really enjoyed coming to the school twice a week to teach and wrestle matches against the high school students.
That said, last Wednesday was a nice reality check as I ended up wrestling a challenge match against a 22-year-old beast of an athlete who had previously won some really big tournaments and had qualified for the provincial championships before.
I’m 35-years-old with a ton of mileage on me and a bunch of injuries from years of competing in various combat sports.
Be that as it may, I didn’t even think twice about backing down when the time came to wrestle. I stepped on the mats and went toe to toe with the guy, who was a shredded ball of muscle and lightning fast on his feet.
He was so quick he actually scored a double leg takedown on me within the first 30 seconds of the match and was immediately wrenching my arm up over my head in a half nelson, trying his hardest to turn me over onto my back and pin me. I fought with everything I had to get out from underneath him, and I actually hurt my rotator cuff before I finally managed to scramble and make it to my feet and earn an escape point.
He was up 2-1 on the scoreboard and I knew I needed to get busy and start scoring points quick or I was definitely going to lose (roughly 90 per cent of matches are won by the wrestler who scores the first takedown).
One of the things I’ve found I’m best at is turning a “match” into a “dogfight,” and going into the second period I knew I had to break this guy’s will in order to win.
I chose to start the second period on the ground in the top position because top control is what I’m best at (once I get the punishing leg ride position locked in, it’s really hard to shake me off your back).
However, this guy had seriously legitimate skills. He managed to shake me off his back right away and he scored a two-point reversal, meaning I was now stuck underneath him, down 4-1 on the scoreboard and defending for my life. I remember thinking in my head “you have to move and score points,” so I initiated a scramble, reversed him and came back out on top.
With the score now 4-3 for him, he grabbed my lead leg and we fought for position again and this time ended up locked in a stalemate.
A stalemate means nobody is advancing position, so we let go and started on our feet in the neutral position.
With time running out in the second period, he shot another fast double leg takedown on me, but this time I was ready for his attack. I sprawled my legs out hard and shoved his head into the mat, forcing him down onto the ground and then I spun around and took his back to score the two-point takedown.
I was now leading 5-4 on the scoreboard, but we still had the third period left to wrestle (high school wrestling matches consist of three, two-minute periods).
We were both exhausted by this point. I had serious pain coursing through my shoulder and neck from when he had almost turned me with the half nelson, and he chose to start the third period in the bottom position, meaning all he had to do to win the match was get out from underneath me by scoring a two-point reversal.
Again, holding people down from top position is my strong suit. I knew that he was just as tired as I was, so if I attacked fast and got the leg ride position locked in, there was no way he was getting out. As soon as the ref called start, I jumped on his back and flattened him out on his belly. From there I grabbed an armbar and started trying to turn him over into a pin, but to his credit he kept fighting and resisting, completely refusing to quit and give up. With time winding down, he bucked and used the last of his energy trying his hardest to break free from the leg ride, but I quickly rolled him back over and kept him flat on his belly until the period came to an end.
I had somehow managed to win 5-4 on points, and as we both lay on the mat gasping for air, I looked over at him and made a joke about whoever goes to hospital first is a wimp (I actually used a different word than “wimp,” but I want to keep this editorial PG).
He laughed, we did a fist bump, and then he stood up and demonstrated some of his throwing techniques before the end of class.
I’m writing this on Friday, Feb. 21, and it still hurts to lift my arm or turn my head, but that’s okay. I knew going in that there was a very good possibility I would get injured. Wrestling is a tough sport that I truly enjoy competing in.
Also, I don’t want anyone to think I’m bragging because I won. I could have very easily lost this match, and if I had, I still would have written about it. Why? Because regardless of the outcome, I gave everything I had and I left it all on the mats.
Tyson Whitney is an award-winning journalist who was born and raised in Port Hardy. His family has lived in Port Hardy for more than 40 years. He graduated with a degree in writing from Vancouver Island University in 2008. Email: email@example.com