Staff Sports: Becca Tackles Wrestling

In September, Forum Editor senior Carly Liao joined the tennis team for a week and documented her experience—she tracked her progress, recorded each practice and reflected on her short-lived tennis career in an article entry that was published in The Oracle’s September issue. Now, it’s my turn.

Sports that are held during the winter season include wrestling, basketball and soccer. I promised myself that once I finished completing my required Physical Education credits, I would never participate in any sport involving a ball again—I’ve been scorned too many times, hit in the face by too many flying objects. Wrestling it is, I decided.

I reached out to wrestling coach Braumon Creighton, who immediately responded to my proposal with an enthusiastic go-ahead. There was no backing out at that point. The date was set: On Monday, Nov. 7, my “Karate Kid” training montage would begin.

About 20 minutes into my first ever wrestling practice, my vision was almost entirely impaired, and I was searching the wrestling room for the nearest trash can to throw up in. As it turns out, sports are hard. Being a dancer, I figured I had the balance, core strength and pain tolerance necessary to get through at least one full practice. I lasted less than a half hour into the warm-up, while the team trains for hours every day. I was surrounded by sweat-sheened faces and Coach Creighton informing us we hadn’t even gotten to wrestling yet. “This is just the warm-up,” he said.

Being a loud and proud quitter, I walked—really, it was more of a zigzag due to dizziness—across the mat to get my backpack under the guise of taking photos for the paper. I snapped a few very blurry shots of the team that shall never be published, mustered an incredibly shaky handshake with Coach Creighton, left the gym and promptly threw up in the trash can outside the girls locker room. I didn’t even make it to the bathroom. (Apologies to the Gunn custodians.)

Naturally, I went back for more.

Still reeling from my bout of sickness, I was apprehensive about making a return. What if I didn’t even make it to the trash can this time? However, any worries of that possibility dissipated when I arrived to practice and saw that Coach Creighton was not present—a light practice was great news for my stomach! We began with laps around the mat with certain variations—jogging
along three sides and sprinting along the fourth, for example. Next, we moved on to other exercises across the mat, such as forward rolls and low singles, a knee- sliding maneuver. I was already having a much better time than I did my first practice—until we moved onto partner drills. Some very nice members of the team offered to teach me the correct stances and movements,
and also how to fall (which I did a lot). They were undoubtedly going as easy on me as possible, but I was still sweating and taking moments to catch my breath. Some friends on the team offered to demonstrate some more advanced holds and lifts and promptly picked me up by the knees, after which I fell on my head and called my mom to pick me up.

In all honesty, I did not want to attend a third practice—everything hurt, including muscles I didn’t know existed, and I felt like I was one more fall from just not getting back up off the mat. However, there was something comical about the idea of being able to say that I attended a week of wrestling practice (a grave understatement considering three practices is half of what legitimate team members attend per week), so I was willing to tough it out for one more day despite every part of my body saying no.

On the third day we started, similar to day two, with drills across the mat. Already sweating and embarrassed at my inability to perform them correctly, it’s safe to say that when the assistant coaches announced that we would be learning basic holds and grapples, I was terrified. It was less about the actual physical aspect and more about the fact that I was scared to be bad at it.
Many members of the team helped me out with placing my feet in the correct position, centering my weight for maximum stability and not falling flat on my face. They never once made me feel bad about doing something wrong—they offered pointers and suggestions for the sole sake of helping me get better, sometimes at the expense of their own practice time. Then, I got dropped some more, and decided that was enough for the day.

All in all, the experience was definitely out of my comfort zone, but the team—both the wrestlers and the coaches—were patient and guiding. I watched as teammates helped each other develop stronger stances, move around more efficiently and learn to get up quickly, teaching each other tips and tricks to become better at the sport. But at the end of the day, they said that wrestling isn’t about being big and strong, or being nimble and quick right out of the gate—it’s about being committed, working hard and persevering even when it’s difficult.

Finally, to the apprehensive wrestlers who are scared to join next year thanks to this story: If I could handle one total hour of practice, you will be just fine. What’s so wonderful about the wrestling team is that there’s room for everyone, from beginners to seasoned wrestlers, as long as they are willing to put in the work. My takeaways from wrestling were learning how to fall and get back up as well as how to continue trying even though I knew I wasn’t good at it. These are lessons that don’t just apply to the wrestling mat, but to every adversity we face in life—and I am so grateful for the experience.