I got the most wonderful letter this week from Jess Gronke. I’m giving up my column this week so you can read it.
Here it is: My three sons wrestle
Two of my sons DID NOT wrestle since they were able to walk, as some kids have. My oldest two boys are what I would call, “late bloomers” in the wrestling program.
They started when they were in the seventh and eighth grade. I was a basketball mom. I LOVE basketball. But, Trey (oldest) texted me while I was throwing my daughters eighth or ninth birthday for her friends (so I was half nuts when I received this text).
I never forgot how I felt when I read the words. “Don’t be mad, I signed up for wrestling.”
I stopped mid-step, panicked and called my husband, because ultimately this was his fault for always telling our boys they could do anything they want. And that they are smart individuals and they could accomplish anything they wanted if they put their mind to it. Well, that IS the truth, but not this.
NOT WRESTLING! I had NEVER seen a wrestling match before Trey’s first season.
NEVER EVER!! (If you have ever sat by me at a wrestling event — you know this to be 100 percent true). Seventh grade — Trey’s first wrestling season started and it ended, as all seasons do. And I survived my first year of wrestling, I SURVIVED watching my kid get brutally attacked by another mother’s son.
Me, sitting across the gym wondering which mom was it, which mom was smirking — because my kid was losing. I watched his shoulder go in places that it shouldn’t — and his body put in a pretzel shaped form, wondering which limb will break first.
All I could do is pray that this little boy of mine wouldn’t break. And he didn’t.
Trey lost all but one of his matches that year. Every time he stepped out on that mat, he had good coaches on his side and his great heart, which he put it out there.
But he lost. How could that be?
For Trey, I found this quote to be truer than anything else.
“Trust the work you put in.”
The next year was a bit different. He was in the eight grade, took weight lifting a little more seriously ... got a little stronger, and started to beat kids — NOT ALL OF THEM — but some. His pretzel-shaped body came undone each time and the refs either lifted his hand at the end of the match or they didn’t. Either way, he shook the other kids hand and left the mat smiling. That’s just Trey.
This program has helped him in SO many ways — mentally and physically. The kid loves this sport. My second son (Tyler) is tall, with long arms and long legs, he played (past tense) basketball.
My husband and I were split between wrestling meets and basketball games for Trey and Tyler. I loved going to Tyler’s basketball games, but things do change.
Right before Trey’s third year of wrestling, the second bomb dropped. I was again, throwing Tiffany’s birthday party for her friends and sure enough, I get a text from Tyler saying, “I lost a bet, I signed up for wrestling.”
Again, I called my husband in a panic as this was surely his fault too — but much to my surprise he didn’t answer.
He knew why I was calling.
NOW I have TWO boys who wrestle. I had to watch TWO boys get untangled on the mat. I had TWO boys to worry about getting mauled by the grizzly bear looking kid that they were about to go up against.
And TWO boys who love this sport. Tyler did well his first year, he did have more losses then wins. But again, he shook the other kids hand and walked off the mat with his head held high — he didn’t walk off the mat mad — probably more frustrated then anything.
He went to the coaches and they told him what he could do better — at least that is what I assume happens when the coaches talk into their ears so intently.
He listened and he got better. This year — he had a lot more wins and his confidence is so much greater. I keep asking him. “Do you like wrestling?” His response is always “Yes, Mom.”
This is my fourth year as a wrestling mom, I still have A LOT to learn — just ask anyone who sits by me! I’m sure when my mouth says things like, “What happened?” or “Why does he get a point?”, and “How come he can punch him in the face with his arm?” the eyes roll!
I don’t know some things: You don’t “play wrestling” and don’t ask things like, “What time do we play next?” Comments like that get you nothing but dirty looks from spectators, ex-wrestlers and other parents.
I also got some great advice like, “Whatever happens Jess, DO NOT go onto the mat, stay in your seat!” But I do ask, to anyone that will listen, when my kids are getting beat by the grizzly bear looking kid, “WHY DO THEY LIKE THIS?”
Most of the time no one responds, and that’s ok. I don’t think I wanted them to answer. I will say that after your son wins a hard fought match, you just about cry (and sometimes I do).
Mostly because I am so proud of what they can accomplish. This is an intense sport, and for those that have never seen a match before, incredibly confusing. But when it’s your son out there, a different emotion takes over, one that is almost indescribable.
One that you can only know if your son steps out on the mat, and gives it his all.
The best is when the kid that your son is wrestling is supposed to kick your kids butt and he’s supposed to get a pin, but instead your kid doesn’t give it up.
Apparently, that is winning in the sport of wrestling.
Even when you are losing, you are winning — which still sometimes baffles me.
After tough matches, individuals will come up to me and say he did a great job tonight. I will usually say, but they lost? And they say “So, he worked hard, didn’t give up and he listens.” These are all winning words to hear as a mom. I now am dropping off my six-year-old son at practices for youth wrestling.
That’s THREE BOYS wrestling — if you were paying attention. I’m going to matches and tournaments on the weekend and cheering for my three sons to do their best, and be there for a hug or whatever they need.
I still don’t understand all there is to wrestling. But I do know if your boy is thinking about joining — LET THEM! Let them experience this sport. The coaches are superb, the parent-friends that I have made during wrestling are AMAZING.
The family and this includes; the wrestlers, ALL of the coaches (youth, volunteers, and staffed coaches) parents and the spectators are there for you and your kids to build them up, keep their heads up and most of all take boys and help them become wonderful young men. These are the reasons my sons wrestle. I no longer ask my kids if they are signing up for wrestling.
I just know that they are, because they believe in themselves and the work they have put in.
Jess Gronke, Ivanhoe
LAUGH A LITTLE: Not that’s dumb! Q: Can a kangaroo jump higher than the Empire State Building? A: Of course. The Empire State Building can’t jump.
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: As my Ole Pappy used to say, “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” It always does! Thanks Ole Pappy!