Brendan was a reluctant member of the entourage. He didn't really want to spend five hours in a car with his mother driving to Granite City especially since departure time was six a.m. Watching Colin wrestle in a big tournament wasn't so bad; it was the drive he hated, or so he said.
Two hundred and fifty miles down 55 South, past the miles and miles of shallow snow and the antique mall with the three-story, bathing suited young man next to the enormous plastic space ship and pink elephant, we arrived at Granite City High School. Colin had lost his first two matches, and was up for his third match in the small gym. This time he did better. Weldon called every few hours for updates.
"Who's he wrestling?" Weldon asked.
"I don't know any of these schools," I answered.
He was not pleased.
So we sat and watched, cheered, screamed for every Oak Park wrestler and passed the time, ate the sandwiches and fruit we packed; I drank the Diet Coke, Brendan drank the Gatorade. Colin drank a lot of Gatorade. (This will become important later.)
I sat in the stands with Caryn, who was watching her two sons, Sammy and Ben. She came on the drive with us; and I was grateful for the sane and uplifting conversation, punctuated by Brendan's snores from the backseat. She also drove the last two hours when my eyelids felt like they were weighted with glue.
Colin ended the day with three losses and two wins. Many of his teammates did extremely well, both the Dardanes boys had no defeats. Ben was going for first.
Colin had dropped 12 pounds to get to 120 for the tournament. So after everyone got back to the Holiday Inn Express in Pontoon Beach where there was not only no beach but also no pontoon in sight, Colin said he would take a hot shower and work out more to make sure he could make weight the next day. He sucked on an ice cube.
Brendan and I walked to Denny's-- I did not want to get back into the car-- and watched in amazement as the one cook turned out dozens of plates of deep fried or just plain fried offerings-- chicken fried steak, grilled cheese, cheeseburgers, eggs. I got a salad with greens likely left over from Thanksgiving. The grilled chicken was good, though, placed gingerly on top. Brendan got a cheeseburger. Colin, of course, had stayed back at the hotel and did not eat.
We settled in after 7 and Colin joined us about 8 that night, stayed in our room; he said he had gotten little sleep the night before, and just wanted to be primed for the next day. He wanted to go as far as he could. This is his first year on varsity as a sophomore.
Long story short. He left at 6 in the morning (though the 5:30 wake up call came at 5:40) to check his weight in his teammate, Anthony Mannetti's room. The team got to the high school and weighed in. Colin weighed 122. One pound over. The one pound allowance for 121 the first day held. Colin had assumed he had an additional one-pound allowance for the next day as well. But he had not confirmed this with anyone on the team.
"Assume nothing" I tell all my journalism students at the Medill School of Journalism on the first day of classes. That means don't assume you know the answer until you ask the question.
Colin was devastated. Colin texted me that he felt so stupid and was so sorry. Brendan and I got to the high school and Colin said he was listed in the lowest bracket and maybe he could still wrestle. But that was false hope.
Brendan and I drove home. Weldon called on the drive to see how Colin was doing. He had plenty to say about making weight. It took us more than five hours to get back, it was snowing lightly and the long stretch of nothingness that is 55 felt like I was moving through miles of beige opaque sheets.
The team came in second out of 24 teams in Illinois and Missouri, a significant win. And this is where the brother part comes in. Both Nick and Chris Dardanes won first place. Chris won Outstanding Wrestler of the Tournament. Their youngest brother, Jack, is on the freshmen team. Nick Kowalczuk, younger brother to Peter, an Olympic hopeful wrestler, placed 8th. Frankie Picchiotti, one of three brothers, took 4th. Ben Brooks took 2nd. Sam, his brother, got 3rd. All three Brooks brothers have been wrestlers; Max wrestled with Weldon. Brock Frisen took 5th. His younger brother, whom everybody calls Little Brock is on JV. And Colin is the youngest of my three sons, all of whom wrestled. And all who have struggled with making weight for tournaments.
It's New Year's Eve and Colin will be home on the bus soon. I am hoping he is OK. This is a lesson we all learn 1,000 times over in our lives: Sometimes you assume too much and it is precisely the assumption that makes all the difference.