Written by Josh Lashley
Those who competed with sincerity in sport of wrestling, whether their career ended with their graduation from high school, after their collegiate days, or if they stayed involved as coaches, competitors, etc. for several decades, know of the many precious life lessons that they’ve learned from time spent on the mat.
Those who competed with sincerity in sport of wrestling, whether their career ended with their graduation from high school, after their collegiate days, or if they stayed involved as coaches, competitors, etc. for several decades, know of the many precious life lessons that they’ve learned from time spent on the mat. Wrestling gives one the knowledge that through hard work, dedication, discipline, focus and mental toughness major goals can be achieved. Of course this lesson, worth more than gold, can carry a person a long, long way on whatever road they travel once their days on the mat are finished.
Unfortunately, some of those who have never competed in a sport where an athlete steps on a mat to face an opponent one-on-one, without teammates around to blame if something goes wrong, have a myopic view of those who have the courage to be a wrestler. Some of those shortsighted views may include, but certainly aren’t limited to, the assumption that the wrestler who appears to be stronger will win or that successful wrestlers aren’t generally good athletes.
The truth is that those who climb high in wrestling are the ones who use their intelligence, abundance of skill and speed to the best of their ability. Having brute strength is great, but without smarts, the ability to stay one move ahead of your opponent and possessing ‘mat awareness’ that strength won’t be worth much at all.
Real Pro Wrestling president Matt Case has had his share of encounters with those who have little to no knowledge in regards to the life of an active wrestler striving to attain goals at a high level. Overall, however, he is optimistic in terms of the responses that he receives from those outside of the wrestling community.
In my promotions and travels with RPW, I’ve really been encouraged to meet many people who know of and have a general understanding about the sport of wrestling,” Case said. “Most people don’t know, however, the demands that wrestling puts on one’s life, the total commitment that’s needed to be competitive.
“I think that it’s funny when someone who has never wrestled before acknowledge that it is a difficult sport. While I know that they are trying to be nice, they really have no idea. They see the struggle, but until they actually try to prevent someone from snapping their head through the floor for six minutes, all they can do is wonder.”
Of course, like many wrestlers, Case has been approached by some people who quickly show their utter ignorance about the sport.. When that happens, Case feels that it’s generally not even worth arguing your points and indeed the best option may be to simply walk away from the situation.
“Well, most people who have wrestled, or have been successful at wrestling rather, don’t talk too much about it (that I’ve noticed) because they are the ‘silent professionals’,” Case said. “But when I personally engage someone who might have a big misconception about wrestling, it doesn’t last too long because until they have experienced the sport or are willing to experience it, it’s usually a waste of time. I say this because usually the people who voice their misconceptions don’t really want to know the facts. They’re more interested in picking a fight and that probably not a good idea with a wrestler.
“Therefore, I usually keep my mouth shut unless they really want to know about the sport. When they do want to know about wrestling, it’s usually a conversation about how difficult the sport is, yet how rewarding it can be. Some people just can’t understand why we wrestle. I try to relate that, but that’s another thing that’s very hard to explain unless they have experienced it or have a desire to be physically and mentally tested the way wrestlers are.”
Another reason to ponder when one considers the misperceptions about wrestling is that it doesn’t get nearly the same big time media attention that other sports, such as football and basketball, enjoy. Bryan Van Kley, the publisher of Wrestling International Newsmagazine (WIN), has taken notice of this, but he also notes that the sport continues to expand in terms of giving its athletes a platform to improve their craft.
“Because of the lack of mainstream media coverage, a majority of people don’t know how big wrestling is in terms of actual numbers, the number of tournaments and the overall interest in the sport,” Van Kley said. “Wrestlers are as devoted and passionate about their sport as any other fans or athletes that you’ll ever find.
“In addition, people always ask me when wrestling’s off-season is. With the incredible growth that wrestling has experienced at every level, from youth wrestling to Real Pro Wrestling, there isn’t an off-season anymore.”
Van Kley, having participated in a variety of sports at the high school and collegiate level, is well equipped if someone approaches him with their misunderstanding about wrestling.
“I challenge people to show me one other sport which teaches you more about yourself and demands more out of you mentally and physically than wrestling,” Van Kley said. “I’m not putting down other sports, because I played four sports in high school and college and love all sports. I’m just realistic about how unique wrestling is.”
In order for wrestling to get bigger and bigger in this country, the benefits as opposed to the distortions about the sport should be brought to the attention of those young athletes who are considering stepping on the mat for the first time.
“To those athletes, I would encourage them to stick it out long enough to make their own judgment about the sport,” Case said. “I would say that after a year they should have a pretty good idea of what is true or not true. However, there are always some coaches that have distorted points of view that often dissuade young athletes from learning what is reality.
“I suppose that this is true for all sports, but wrestling is not just a game, but a way of life. Therefore, it is important to take the time and evaluate the benefits of what the sport has to offer. Some people know right away, but most will have to immerse themselves and come through the fire, so to speak, to understand the realities of wrestling.”