I decided to make my blog a bit more personal and share with you one of my family’s loves. By family, I mean both biological and “adopted” 🙂
My son decided only last year that he would go out for wrestling. I had told my husband, Brad, for years that he was NOT going to push him into it, that I wanted it to be Kasen’s decision whether or not to participate. It’s an incredibly intense sport and with Brad’s passion for it, I didn’t want it to be too much for him and make him hate it.
We found a local private club his first season which was an amazing foundation for him. It was a great program for beginning wrestlers that taught a LOT of technique and defense moves and Kasen moved from the intermediate class to the elite class in just 6 short weeks. He really gravitated to the coaching techniques and the intensity of it all. Being only 65# in the 5th grade, he had a lot of bigger, more experienced wrestlers to challenge him and he had a great season. On track wrestling, his record was 7-0 finishing out the first season at beginner tournaments. (His season was cut early when he got pneumonia in December and struggled with a left lung that held on to fluid for over 6 weeks.)
With our move this year, Kasen did pre season training with Grandview University and has a coach named Dallas Houchins who he adores. Kasen is a pretty laid back kid, so we struggle to get him fired up for his matches, but he absorbs technique well and is able to implement it fairly well for a beginner. Brad has tried very hard this year to step back a bit and be his dad first and coach second. Seems simple, but for a man passionate for the sport with a talented kid he desperately wants to see hit his full potential, its a struggle sometimes.
This leads me to this past Sunday. It was Kasen’s first pre season tournament and we hoped all of his hard work would pay off. It was Brad with the nerves as we pulled in and saw the crowds of experienced wrestlers warming up. Kasen (or Kman as I always call him) weighed in at 71# and looked ready to roll.
Dilemma number one popped up when we saw Reid. Reid is an amazing wrestler. Skilled, experienced, tough…and Kasen’s cousin. They are in the same grade and the same size, of course. Kasen knew Reid could out wrestle him, but we told him just to give it his all. Do you know how hard it is for these boys (and their parents) to be opponents in a sport that is one on one? Where its intense and brutal at times. Where there are lots of injuries, tears and blood. To look across the mat at family whom we adore and watch our boys have to duke it out? Hard, but part of the sport.
Second dilemma was that the weight spread was 9 pounds!! That is a LOT in wrestling and makes executing moves more difficult. But again, part of the sport.
Kasen is athletic. We joke that there isn’t anything he cant do well which was proven the first time we took the kids bowling. Kya has grace like her mom so struggles just to walk the lane without tripping while Kasen threw strike after strike. Its really quite annoying 🙂 But wrestling is a whole other ballgame. As I said, in beginner tournaments, he had an excellent record. This tourney was not a beginners and we knew he would be challenged. We hoped it would teach him while not breaking him down. Talk about a tough line to walk.
His first match, he gave up penalty points two different times tying up the score 7-7 sending the boys into OT. His opponent shot and got the take down giving him the win. Kasen was devastated. Not just because he lost, but because he beat himself with mistakes which tied up the score to begin with. My big tough dad, who looks like Mr. Clean with his huge muscles and bald head, even teared up watching Kman’s defeat. We told him that he will remember next match not to make the same mistakes and it was all part of the process of getting better. Learning and growing.
Second match was Reid and it was over in the first round by pin with a move that Kasen knew the defense to and simply didn’t do it. Another lesson, another defeat. This time there weren’t any tears, it hit deeper and he looked as though he was questioning everything. His decision to wrestle. His abilities, his talent… We gave him space. We told him to put it behind him and focus on the next match.
His third match was with an opponent 8 pounds heavier than him. He has beat this particular kiddo numerous times and went in lazy. His opponent had been working extremely hard and surprised him. He quickly learned that he needed to step up his game before the 3rd period (like he did) when he started the last period behind in points. The very end of the match was Kasen on top with his opponent in a headlock for the pin. BUT…because he didn’t get aggressive until the end, the timer went off right before he was able to finish it out and he lost by one point. That was another tough pill to swallow.
I have always had a love for photography, so thanks to a new “Cadillac of cameras” birthday gift, I was behind the lens all day trying to get some good shots of all of the boys we were there with. ( One of our best friends, Ryan (Kya’s “uncle”) had his two boys there as well.) The entire day, I hoped that Kasen was learning, but I didn’t realize how much I had to learn until I got to step back and watch the real moments through my camera. They were the moments where no one was cheering, no one was watching. They were moments more raw, more of a victory than any I saw by any ref raising a hand for the win. It was the dads. Simply being dads.
The first picture was of Ryan and his amazing 4th grader, Jax, who is one of my favorite kids on the planet. He always has hugs and snuggles for me no matter where he is. He is my texting buddy and Kasen’s “little bro”. He won two great matches, but a third, he lost to pin very quickly in the first quarter. His tears made my chest burn and I desperately wanted to make him stop hurting. Watching Ryan wrap him up in his arms and tell him how great he was, gave me a small glimpse of why wrestling is the ultimate sport.
The second picture was of the boys. (Kasen, Jax, Jax’s twin, Jayse, and their big brother Keegan) sitting with their dads smiling. Keegan dominated all day, but Jax and Kasen had both had tough losses and there they were. Laughing, smiling, supporting each other. There was not one match where win or lose ALL of the boys didn’t sit mat side ready to congratulate or give their “brother” a high 5 and a hug.
The last picture was of Brad and Kasen. Kman was bent over, nauseous, pale and completely heart broken. And his dad, his coach, his best friend with his arms wrapped around him, kissing his head. It was that moment where it all made sense to me.
These boys (children) are one on one with another, and in 3 short minutes they have to lay it all on the line. Every single moment is not only exhausting physically, but mentally as well. A million moves going through their heads while trying to defend their opponents moves. They have no one to blame or thank at the end of a match but themselves. No teammates on the field to hide behind, to blame, to help shoulder the defeat. It is them and them alone. That is an immense amount of pressure for a child. And they want so badly to prove themselves that losses in all age groups end in tears, frustration and heartache. Its not something they simply grow out of. If anything, the pressure is more intense and the defeat is more debilitating the older they get.
In wrestling, family comes first. During the match with Reid, I watched my uncle, aunt and cousins cheer silently because they didn’t want to “coach” against Kasen. I watched Kasen, Jax, Keegan and Jayse love each other in every sense of the word and BE a family for each other. I watched the sadness in Ryan’s eyes as he watched our sons feel defeat and I watched my husband’s pride in Kman after 3 losses. There are very high highs and very low lows and these boys have the courage to step on that mat because of the FAMILY that stands behind them. Its seriously the most amazing thing to watch and I would have never “seen” it had I not been behind my camera lens.
Although I know Kasen learned not to lock his hands, to get aggressive early in the match, and to not underestimate ANY of his opponents…I’m mostly glad he learned that win or lose, he has a family there to support him. To stand behind him while he finds the courage to step out there and do his best and to stand behind others and be their support as well. Wrestling is, to us, the ultimate sport in teaching not only technique but life lessons as well. I learned so much this weekend about love and I am so thankful for a sport where the best moments happen off the mat 🙂