regular readers will know that since, the end of november,
i've reverted to my mat rat days, after a fashion.
in october, 1966, as an 83-pound eighth grader at nevada junior high school, i was one of maybe 20-25 8th and 9th graders who went out for the first junior high wrestling team the school ever had.
we sucked. i sucked.
i can't recall the team's dual record for the season, but i DO recall having a record of 0-11. the only "good" thing was that i was never pinned. ironically [as later years would reveal], i had a very strong back. i improved with succeeding seasons, and though never a star, i did grow and eventually felt pretty comfortable taking the mat at 95 and 103, and finished my career with a .500 record. our teams were pretty good, not stellar, but never the "gimme" wins, the doormats that all teams welcomed on their schedules.
from 1966 on, i had friends who were much older and larger, guys who otherwise would never have had any reason to even look at me. these were friends who took me--the second smallest guy on the team--under their wings, and became quite good buddies. these introductions allowed me, among other things, to get involved in local rock and roll bands and, more importantly, the high school and college anti-war movement in the late sixties. pretty cool stuff. but i digress.
my son-in-law, dwight hinson, began coaching at nevada high school this fall. he inherited a program that has seen some pretty fair days, has produced some individual conference and state champions, but to my knowledge, never any conference team titles nor state team titles. he is replacing a coach who has been at the helm for over twenty years, but had to step aside for health reasons; he remains at the school as a teacher, and still hangs out with the team.
i suspect his role is to keep an eye on "his" program, and to chafe dwight.
last year, the nevada high school wrestling team was 2-14 in dual meets. this fall, the team has been small, unable to field a wrestler at 103, and since grades came out, must forfeit at 112, too [that darned earth science has always been a killer!]. so on a good night, the team spots the opposition 12 points off the bat. on other occasions, there has been a third forfeit form one of three other kids who have had "injuries" that have sidelined them, at the cost of another six points. they have a stable of another four to six junior varsity wrestlers.
NOT a deep squad.
but, as dwight told me early in the season, they may not be pretty, but they WILL be in shape.
and they are. a parent told me last night of a conversation he'd had with a coach whose team was spanked by the cubs last saturday.* [the rest of this story WILL be told, trust me] background: last saturday, january 27th, the cubs were one of ten teams at a dual team tournament at colfax. the entire team wrestled the four other teams in their pool, and then wrestled the equivalent-placed team from the other pool, for a final standing. in other words, five times in eight hours.
now, granted, this means at most 30 to 34 minutes of wrestling. but it's a real test of physical and mental conditioning. they emerged 3-1 from their pool, and then lost a 3-point dual for third place. but they were in it all the way, and this was after, again, spotting the others 18 points.
this kids know this, and they're pissed the lost, and they're upset with the kids who caused the forfeits which caused them to start so much in the hole.
so last night, in the team's final competition before their conference tournament this weekend, they faced to area teams in a double dual in adel, facing off against the perry bluejays and the adm tigers. at 530 pm, they took the mat against perry, trailing 0-12, but winning in a flurry of pins, 46-24. and the pins came after the kids worked on fundamentals. very impressive stuff. and the perry bluejays were gassed as the walked off. the nevada wrestlers, even in defeat, were scrambling for points, trying to win.
then, with a fifteen minute break, they took on the home team, on senior night. this time, they spotted adm 18 points, after one the the nevada studs, at 125, took himself out after "hurting" his shoulder against perry. they entered the final match, at 160, trailing 31-28, needing a major decision to win. all eyes were on the north mat, as nathan dittmer ["ditt"] battled a very tatlented junior from adel. after the second period, ditt trailed 2-4, although he was clearly the dominant wrestler. he gave up the four points on a takedown and near-fall early in the first period when a takedown attempt by ditt went awry. he quickly got a reversal and maintained control throughout, but was unable to turn the kid over to his back. the referee hit the adm kid with his third stalling call, which made the score 4-3. with about 30 seconds remaining in the match, and with the fate of the dual in the balance, ditt, who was riding on top, let the adm wrestler up, and, trailing now 5-3, shot a double-leg, and scored the takedown with about 5 seconds left.
after six minutes, tied 5-5. 1: 00 overtime period, first to score wins.
ditt was on fire, but the kid was evasive. nathan made several attempts, and finally scored another double leg takedown with 15 seconds on the clock. in one swift move, ditt was going for the fall, and had the kid on his back, seeking themeet-winning fall, which he should have been able to persue, but the ref scored two, and whistled the match over, 6-5.
team score, 31-31.
but wait, no ties in wrestling anymore.
so the teams get out theirscore books, in which a team assistant [for nevada, she is a sweet 16-year old, who had never done this before] records EVERY point by either wrestler throughout the match. they are the stone tablets of moses.
upon review of all criteria, nevada was found to have scored more takedowns, more near-falls, and by virtue of having actually WON more matches [discounting the three forfiets], was awarded one team point.
final score, nevada wins, 32-31.
but most telling, throughout ditt's entire seven minute bout, then entire nevada team was on its feet, yelling and screaming its unified support. i haven't seen THAT much enthusiasm all season.
the kids KNOW that dwight and assistant coach grant nakamura have been scorching their asses all season long, with typically two workouts a day. their bodies hurt, their minds say quit, but their hearts--finally--are saying shut the fuck up. and their heads are listening.
result? the team finished this phase of the season with a record of 7-6. but in the last four days of the season, upon which momentum for the conference relies, they are an impressive 5-2.
now, coaches never admit this, but they do the math, and so do the kids: they are kicking ass, and they are leaving tired opponents in their wake.
now, they're NOT going to win the conference tournament, they won't win the sectional or district tournaments which follow throughout saturdays in february. but when the state tournament ends february 24, coaches around the state will know that the nevada program is going to win those in the not-too-distant future. these kids are learning to work, and are learning the value of resetting their individual pain thresholds.
what a great sport.
* the coach told this parent that the other coaches in the field were happy to wrestle the teams who had just finished wrestling nevada, since they knew they'd be toast.
no mercy from dwight's seat during the match, just good, solid, match-winning advice. put your arm this way, do that with your legs or hips. wrestle what you know; we'll work on new things in the wrestling room. it doesn't hurt; get back to the center and wrestle.