The world of junior wrestling makes for tougher moms, too

lpemberton@theolympian.comJanuary 27, 2013 

We’ve survived numerous dance recitals, horse exhibitions, youth soccer and T-ball games. But I don’t think anything could have prepared us for the world of junior wrestling.

First, some background: My husband didn’t know anything about wrestling because he was more of a baseball/soccer/track type of athlete. And everything I knew about the sport was from the viewpoint of a cheerleader nearly 20 years ago, which turned out to be about as relevant as my old uniform and pompoms.

But it’s an activity that came naturally to our boys, ages 5 and 7. I think that’s because they’ve been training for it their entire lives.

Our oldest has the whole “I need to prove that I’m the strongest and in charge if something happens to dad” attitude. Meanwhile, our youngest owns the “I have a lot of pent up aggression and you had better not treat me like I’m a baby — unless I want you to” viewpoint.

Mix in their astrological signs – one is a Capricorn goat and the other is a Taurus bull – and, well, let’s just say there’s a whole lot of king-of-the-mountain type activity that takes place in our living room on a regular basis.

We’ve never let them do any of the professional wrestling or ultimate fighting moves that they may have heard about from their friends (we don’t watch that stuff on TV). But we gave up years ago on the notion that brothers who were two years apart could live under the same roof without some type of roughhousing. Even when they are acting like best friends, they always seem to be participating in brotherly feats of strength.

As a spectator, I think wrestling is an absolutely thrilling sport to watch. It’s about strength, strategy and determination.

It’s the classic battle of “man versus man” or in some cases “man versus woman.” And it’s intense: Wrestlers spend several hours each week training for something that can be over within a matter of seconds.

As a mom, I learned that it also can be a terrifying sport to watch.

Our oldest son was put into an illegal hold and had a nosebleed while wrestling in his first tournament.

About two weeks later, at a different tournament, our youngest son was pulled head first on a mat so hard, the referee stopped the match to make sure he was OK. It took him a few minutes to stop crying.

To be honest, I’m not sure how I watched either of those events without throwing up or passing out. And both of my boys ended up winning those matches, which were against kids who were stronger and more experienced than they were.

Looking back, I now realize that the boys’ firsts couple of tournaments were extremely well organized. But as a newbie, they seemed overwhelming and chaotic. I didn’t expect for there to be so much “hurry up and wait, and hurry up even faster because your kids’ group is actually supposed to be on the other side of the gym.”

I tried to pay attention to our talented coaches at practice, but I think I learned the most about the sport from watching other wrestling moms.

They wore sweatshirts with their kids’ team logos on the front, which turns out to make quite the statement when an entire team and their families are sitting together at a tournament.

They insisted on breakfasts that contained sausage or bacon simply for the sake of protein. Wrestlers need food that will give them energy and strength, and that will stick with them for a long period of time.

And wrestling moms, like their sons and daughters, were tough, too.

When their kids got hurt on the mat, they didn’t freak out.

They made sure their kid was all right, put on a brave smile and said, “It’s going to be OK, now get back in there.”

Lisa Pemberton is one busy mama, raising three children while working as a reporter at The Olympian. Reach her at lpemberton@theolympian.com.

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