An entire week plus has passed since the IHSA finals in Champaign, Illinois where I was proud to be part of the Huskies Wrestling Family and witnessing a lot of parents, coaches, family and friends cheering and inspiring the wrestlers they came to support from all over the state.
The friends and relatives of 125-pound state champion Danny Sabatello (a cousin of our own Coach Sabatello) from Stevenson High School made the entire Assembly Hall smile with their day-glo yellow t-shirts and matching coaches' dress shirts at the championship match.
I saw some remarkably poor sports, too. But I don't want to dignify the behavior by posting it, but it was there.
I also saw so many injuries-- young men stopping the match because they hit their heads, or being carried off on a body board on a stretcher or in a wheelchair. Perhaps I was extremely sensitive because of Colin's recent concussion and all the concussion news that has been secretly horrifying me. But my heart sank for all the young men out there whose dreams were shattered because of injury.
At this year's 2011 individual state finals, five of our OPRFHS wrestlers competed-- Darius Henry, Cameron Harris, Michael Woulfe, Chirino Watson and Sammy Brooks-- with Sammy coming home with the second place medal at 171 pounds.
The Grand March was thrilling, especailly seeing Sammy's name in lights while sitting next to his parents, Caryn and Charlie.
But an unsettling part of the video that played before the Grand March was the glorification of the MMA, which for me is not at all why my sons wrestle. It is not at all related to the sport that so many college-bound athletes engage in. Not one of the highlighted coaches or players was one of the hundreds who have gone on to scholarships and careers at great colleges, universities and junior colleges across the country. It was a skewed view for many of us, and exactly the violent, meathead, gangland stereotype we try to shift away from when we tell our friends our sons wrestle.
It takes a certain kind of young man to wrestle competively in youth, high school and college. It is not at all the kind of bleached blond, Mickey Rourke brand of ruthless, butt-kicking mayhem glorified in MMA. I was waiting for the video interviews of the young men, like our own Chris and Nick Dardanes, to talk about what it is like to wrestle at the University of Minnesota, after winning titles at the IHSA. But no. It was about MMA-style wrestling.
I am hoping that Colin makes it to state next year, his last opportunity. He was cleared by the concussion specialist just this Monday to go back to practice. He is coming on strong for the off-season. And yes, I will be terrified every second thinking he may get another head injury. So I will be praying.
I have been to five IHSA finals in Champaign to date; when Weldon competed at 140 in 2006 and 2007; and then when I went with the team in 2008 and 2009. I missed 2010 because Colin was out with MRSA after being hospitalized. I have my fingers crossed for 2011 for him.
When my friends and sisters ask me why I spent the weekend in Champaign when Colin wasn't competing, I can't explain it fully. They just don't understand the concept of the Wrestling Family. Perhaps you do. The first night after competition, we had tables pushed together for 25-- plus two more moms at another nearby booth-- at Applebee's in Champaign on Friday night. Coaches, moms, dads, siblings, wrestlers.
But, really, given all the options of what I could have done with my weekend? There was no other place in the world I would rather be.