I have to laugh to myself when I think about this. I am a seemingly gentle soul, with a strong willed and intelligent outlook on life until I mention that I am involved in wrestling. I watch as their eyes go wide and their expression changes. It is like my 4’8” self has all of a sudden become a big brawn monster, which could kill you with their thumb. “Oh my God! YOU wrestle?” they shriek with a baffled look on their face. Besides having this girly exterior, I now possess strength and power.
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I smile and take in the few seconds of paralyzed fear and amazement because I know it is short lived. I break the news; I do not wrestle. I am a mat maid. I explain that wrestling has many other parts, other than actual athletics. I tell them about my big red score book and the thrill that being at the matches gives me. I explain that boys love me and look at me as their little sister and their biggest support system.
The question I always get first after my explanation is “HOW DID THAT START?” They ask in a different form of shock than before. It is a simple story. As I started my seventh grade year, I was shaky and nervous about middle school and popularity. I met this lanky awkward boy with big ears and bright blue eyes. I watched throughout the year as he went from lanky to built and brawn. I was amazed at his transformation and enthralled. I finally decided to speak to him. So a few months past and we were inseparable, but things were changing. He did not start texting me until later and later at night. I asked him what was going on and he said he wrestled for the high school. That weekend I attended my first tournament in order to watch him. From then on, I was hooked.
Like a majority of people that are awestruck about me working with the wrestling team, my parents were dumbfounded. They could only think of sweaty boys and violence. It took a while for them to realize that this was not me participating, but rather managing and gaining leadership.
I am often asked if I have ever wrestled myself. Honestly, I could never bring myself to show that determination and dedication to one sport and risk all that they do. Yet, I keep finding myself protecting the sport from the misunderstandings that frame it.
Because of this, I have become a major advocate for male and female equivalency. I express my views without reservation, and I have learned to take in the opinions other than my own. I am stronger, not physically, but mentally from this special activity. I have learned that gender is not a matter of who can do what, but how hard the person must work. I love wrestling, and I think wrestling loves me too.