In New York last week 50 or so parents of students at two schools gathered to watch a series of nine matches between the schools’ wrestling teams. When the matches were over, and Philadelphia’s Overbrook School had won, 22-to-5, the teams cheered each other and everyone went home. Because there was only one point of procedure at all out of the ordinary about the whole performance, a stranger could have watched from the gymnasium balcony without being aware that all contestants on both teams were totally blind.
Matches between blind wrestlers differ from ordinary matches only in that they start with both contestants in contact with each other at the centre of the ring, instead of in their respective corners. Ordinary interscholastic rules, which forbid flying tackles, govern what happens thereafter.
Overbrook was the first U. S. school for the blind to start wrestling as a regular sport, along with swimming, bowling and track”in which blind runners perform in individual lanes against a stopwatch.
Since Coach Near S. Quimby introduced wrestling at Overbrook in 1929, it has been adopted at five other U. S. schools for the blind. More remarkable, however, than the success of wrestling among blind boys has been the success of Overbrook’s wrestlers against non-blind opponents. In the past five years, the school has won 31 matches, lost none. Almost all of its victories have been against non-blind opponents. Last week’s victory was Overbrook’s fourth this year, its first against blind opponents.
Against non-blind opponents, a blind wrestler is at a minor disadvantage until both are on the mat. Coach Quimby emphasizes grips designed to get an opponent off his feet as quickly as possible, teaches his charges not to let opponents wriggle out of their grasp. Once on the mat, a blind wrestler’s acute sense of touch often outweighs his opponent’s ability to see. Twitching muscles betray the grip an opponent intends, permit a blind wrestler to break it before it is completed. Broken arms and ribs among blind wrestlers are no more common than among their non-blind confreres. Curious foibles are no less rare. In last week’s match, Overbrook’s opponent, the New York Institute for the Education of the Blind, had to use a substitute against Overbrook’s star, Philip Tuso, because Philadelphia’s white blind wrestlers do not like to compete with blind wrestlers who are Negroes.
Two of Overbrook’s ablest current wrestlers are the Marcucci brothers, Raymond and George, identical twins who were born blind 16 years ago. George is national blind champion at the 50-yd. dash. Raymond is national blind champion at basketball throwing. Both are talented woodworkers. Last week both won their matches, George in 5 min. 5 sec., his brother in 20 seconds less.
There are no blind professional wrestlers but at least one of Overbrook’s graduates is able enough to consider such a career. He, Robert Allman, who left Overbrook in 1934, is currently a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studies in Braille, wrestles as a regular member of the team. Last week while Navy wrestlers were beating Penn, 23-to-3, Wrestler Allman lost his match to Navy’s Charles Chandler but his display of defensive technique was so impressive that 4,000 spectators cheered him throughout the bout, gave him an ovation when it ended. Said Blind Wrestler Allman: “I live for wrestling. If I lost out on the squad I would feel lost. You know I love the cheering from fans when I am down on the mat, but of course it confuses me before leaving my feet. You see, I must follow my opponent by the sound of his feet and the noise of his breathing.”