Rant: Vision Quest (Part II).
February 20, 2013
In the first segment of this post, I basically went off on a tangent on my wrestling experience and my introduction to the sport. This inevitably lead me on a path that would force me to choose what I wanted to specialize in. And we all know how that ended. I must be getting older because it seems I can never actually give my opinion on something without diving into a complete analysis of why. I suppose this also explains why I rarely give my opinion on anything. Nonetheless, I’m just going to continue on the nostalgia track and hopefully it will lead me to my reasoning on why I think the sport of wrestling is intimately tied to the Olympics.
I have two memorable instances which led me to ultimately choose to pursue weightlifting as my primary focus. Sacramento State doesn’t have a wrestling team so I enrolled in a few units at a local JC including an “introduction to wrestling” class. I figured that it would be the most logical way to see if I could join the team. The only people who would probably take that class would be the wrestlers on the team looking to get some practice in during the off-season and the only person who would most likely teach that course would be one of the coaches. I was right. After a week or so, we were doing live wrestling. After seeing me perform, the coach asked if I wanted to join the team. I told him that was the only reason I took the class. He responded by assuming the persona of the pope, he made a hand motion in the sign of the cross and said that I was officially on the team. I let him know that I had just qualified to compete at the Collegiate Nationals in weightlifting after which I would be a full-time wrestler. Collegiates came and went. The coach congratulated me and then said it was time to hang up my singlet . . . my weightlifting singlet. The problem was that by the time I competed at collegiates, I was already far too invested in the sport. I remember seeing Cody Gibbs and the rest of the lifters from LSUS dominate in their sessions. I promised myself that one day I would be like them (also a good story).
A few months later, I found myself at the judo club’s night practice. The other guys that I coached wrestling with were older and more experienced. They had already branched out into different martial art styles and were always eager to educate me. This would usually lead to a few bumps and bruises but always laughter afterwards. Ready to learn and practice with new faces I sought out groups who would practice different grappling styles. I made friendly with the judo club instructor who was also a biomechanics professor. After enrolling in his judo class, he also let me practice with the club during the evenings. Sensing a pattern here? After a handful of practices, I met a blackbelt who looked to be in his late forties. He was a cool dude and also kind enough to practice with me. During some light sparring, we had a conversation about how I ended up at a judo practice without actually being a real judo player. I explained to him that I wanted to make a run at the Olympic trials one day as a weightlifter but also really loved wrestling and grappling. He stopped what he was doing, called me foolish and then told me to choose what I wanted to specialize in before I injured myself doing both. Best piece of advice I’ve ever received.
So that’s what I did. For better or worse, it’s been WEIGHTLIFTING ever since.
I suppose the proper response to this would be:
Let me apologize. I don’t know why I decided to go off on a tangent like an elderly physics professor talking about how he used to work on submarines. It’s just that when I first saw that wrestling would be removed from the Olympic program, it brought back a flood of memories of my short experience with the sport and that I might have been robbed of that if my high school didn’t have a wrestling program due to decreased popularity. As I said before, I’m not Joe wrestler. My involvement with the sport was relatively brief and I had barely scratched the surface with what it had to offer. Despite this brevity, wrestling played a pivotal role in my athletic background.
It taught me what “hard” is. I’m of the opinion that people need to be taught how to physically exert themselves. My mother literally had to push me around a track to get me to jog as a kid and I thought that was hard. Tears would run down my fat little chin and I felt sorry for myself. But I didn’t know any better. Finishing a match, finishing a practice or a conditioning session, pinning an opponent of similar size and skill is hard to do. Wrestling taught me that. I want it to act as a teacher for generations to come.
Personal experiences aside, let’s talk about the Olympic Games. They represent the unattainable, impossible absolute of what it means to be an athletic human being. Who is the fastest? The most powerful? The most agile? Precision. Endurance. There is an event for each of these adaptations. The better events combine multiple adaptations. Of course, team sports have made their way into the games which place group achievement and sport specific skill sets over individual athleticism. And without sounding like a total jerk on my own blog, let’s just say that certain “sports” have made it onto the Olympic program that don’t necessarily challenge these adaptations as well as others. But the core sports, the ones that have been practiced the longest, remain as the cornerstone of human achievement. Let’s talk about a specific human achievement, muscular endurance. Wrestlers score the highest in muscular endurance tests over any other athlete. That’s pretty elite, right?
Oh snap. I said the “E” word. I’m sure crossfiters would argue that their elite would achieve higher muscular endurance and they might be right. But it doesn’t change the fact that Crossfit is still a company, a name branded version of a randomized strength and conditioning program. So until Crossfit competitions eventually become, “randomized strength and conditioning competitions” (which doesn’t sound so sexy) it will remain more of a marketing campaign and less of a sport. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’m just sayin’.
So there you have it. 2,000 words on why I think wrestling should stay in the Olympics.
1) It’s hard.
2) It tests muscular endurance and requires multiple skill sets.
It would be tragic if future generations miss out on this sport due to it being removed from the Olympic program and I am wondering what the real motives were for taking a sport that has always been part of the Olympic tradition out of the games. All I can say is that as a human race, we all just got a little weaker.