Worried mom grapples with her son's love for wrestling

January 09, 2000|By SUSAN REIMER

MOTHERS, DON'T let your babies grow up to be wrestlers. Trust me. You'll hate it.

The only activity our sons could choose that would be less mother-friendly is patrolling sniper zones in the Balkans. Wrestling is as close to hand-to-hand combat as your baby boy can get without carrying a knife between his teeth. There is no place for mothers in wrestling.

"I watch through my fingers," one wrestling mother told me. "I am afraid to be here in case something happens. But I am afraid not to be here in case something happens. Do you understand?"

Only another wrestling mother understands.

One mother sells concessions while her sons wrestle and then watches the video at home "after I see that they are all right. After I see them walk to me." Another mother could not even enter the building when her son was wrestling.

Wrestling is not spectator-friendly because of the arcane scoring of falls and take-downs and escapes. It is tough to tell who is winning when they are rolling around. (Unless, of course, your pride and joy flops around like a landed fish for less than 30 seconds before being pinned to the mat like a bedsheet. Then the best a mother can do is smile bravely and say to those around her who have witnessed this, "You know, lacrosse is really his first love.")

But even if wrestling were not hard to understand, it would be constitutionally impossible for a mother to watch someone else's little beast trying to break off parts of her son while grinding his sweet face into that mat.

A mother doesn't know whether to faint or throw up.

If you haven't already guessed, my son has decided to become a high school wrestler. His father the sportswriter offered this sobering advice. "You know, Joe," he said, "they talk about `playing soccer' or `playing baseball.' They even talk about `playing football.' But nobody talks about `playing wrestling,' and there is a reason for that. It is a combat sport."

I knew all of that. I used to cover high school wrestling in my previous incarnation as a sportswriter, and I wrote vivid stories about the Chiapparelli brothers, Lou and Rico, and Greg Peery of Mount St. Joe High School. I watched them as they toyed with opponents like a dog with a rag doll, and I praised them for it.

How could I have been so blind? That was another woman's son out there!

Even away from the gym, wrestling is not mother-friendly. Wrestlers come home from practice anxious to try out some new hold on a sibling, or worse -- on you. A hug is never just a hug from a wrestler.

And wrestlers don't eat. Whether they need to cut weight or not, they pride themselves in not eating and not drinking before a meet. And teen-aged boys are very irritable when they are hungry.

So there is your little boy, out there on the middle of a mat. In some gyms, he steps into the beam of a single overhead light. He is alone against his opponent, no teammates to mask his mistakes. He has no stick or bat and no protective padding. He is hungry, hollow-cheeked and sunken-eyed.

And he is about to engage in single combat with some brainless thug who is, nonetheless, the baby boy of another mother. You will be able to spot her in the crowd, the only other woman in such obvious anguish.

What's a mother do to? All this wrestling. And none of it with his conscience.

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