Sunday, November 24, 2013

13 Second Victory

"When your match is short enough to be put on insta"
-Erin Brito

This story is going to be a lot longer than the match I'm writing about. Erin Brito put her video on Instagram and to the surprise of her, her friends and probably her opponent, the whole match was able to fit. That's what happens when you pin your opponent in 13 seconds.

Erin is a junior at Gaither High School in Florida. She's been wrestling for three years, and while she loves wrestling, her confidence level isn't that high. "I've honestly never been quite good at wrestling, I am much better at MMA (mixed martial arts)." For Erin, the losses piled up, "My coaches usually just put me in whatever weight they need me. For example my freshman year I weighed 106 but they put me at 120 for districts. I got my ass handed to me a lot because of this."

This is actually my favorite part about writing this book/blog. Unfortunately, girls records their first year tend to be filled with L's and not a lot of W's. Often times, they quit. The ones that come back a second year are hopeful for better results, but many times, they add a few W's, but they still lose a lot more than they win. Often times, they quit. So when a girl comes back a third season for wrestling...even after all the losses, its those type of girls I love to write about. And Erin is that girl.

Despite the losses, she kept her enthusiasm for the sport because Erin says, she doesn't have a choice. "I just have way to much pride for myself.  I beat myself up a lot when I lose but quitting is not an option. I can't do that when I've come so far. I know I'd regret it. I just keep trudging on cause every day is a new opportunity to flourish."

Which brings us to her big match. I say big, because it was. There were 11 teams competing and Erin was a little in awe. "I was nervous and excited since it was the first official meet of the season but there was so much competition! I don't think I've ever been to an 11 way."
Erin lost the first match of the meet, but true to her personality, she was not sulking. "I was just determined to leave with more victories than losses, and I knew I had to step up my game in order to do that. Go hard or go home." When Erin saw her opponent from Plant High School, she was excited. "He seemed like a good opponent to face. They're usually bigger despite being the same weight. But he looked closer to my height lol. It wasn't that it was unintimidating, it was just interesting to see someone looking more like they weigh what I weigh."

When I interview girls many of them have told me the boy was either too cocky, or too nervous before the match. Some even said they knew at the handshake to start the match that they would win, because their opponent gives a limp handshake. But Erin said, this wasn't the case here. "He shook hands firm and promptly like me; he carried himself like he was prepared for a match."

He wasn't the only one prepared. Typically a coach tells their wrestlers what to do before a match, but this time, Erin told her coach.

"I told my coach I was going to go straight for a head and arm as soon as the match starts." And that's exactly what she did.  "I attacked first and hit the top of his head and looked like I was setting something up, he opened his arms and I went for my head and arm hold and sat out to take him down with me ."

The turning point of the match came at the 4 second mark. Yes, the 4 second mark. Erin tried to pull her opponent down, and her opponent fought it.  Erin says, "He didn't come all the way down and still tried to get on my back."

If you stop the video at the four second mark, things aren't looking good for Erin, as it appears, her opponent has leverage and has her back. But looks can be deceiving, and Erin realized she had the upper hand. "I knew I had enough of his arm and head to pull him back over and finish it."

And that's exactly what she did. Erin outmuscled her opponent and by the 5 second mark, the boys head hit the mat and he was on his back after only six seconds.  There was no escaping, and Erin knew it. "I saw I had it, and I knew I was going to finish it. I had to. I pulled and got my pin in and just settled back onto him with my feet on the ground and squeezed till the ref called it."

After the ref slapped the mat, Erin couldn't help but slap it just a little bit harder. " I slapped the mat cause I got excited lol and was proud of myself." While other wrestlers try to be stoic after a victory, Erin couldn't hold off on her joy.  "I was honestly just blatantly happy. Seeing hard work pay off is such an amazing feeling and that was the quickest pin I've ever gotten. We got up and got back to the center and the ref raised my hand and I was just smiling all big. I told my opponent good match and shook his coaches hand before going back to my team."

For Erin, she's hoping the win propels her to bigger and better things. " It boosted my self esteem. That win started me on a pretty good note ya know? I like knowing I'm getting somewhere.
And if you think 13 seconds is fast, Erin says, she could do better. " If we rematched, I think we'd both try our best to win, but rematches are always sort of stressful and enticing . My goal would be to get a quicker pin then before."

As for her Instagram status..."When your match is short enough to be put on insta"...that wasn't meant to demean her opponent. "It was very cool to be able to get a match done so quick, I thought it was funny that it fit on Instagram so that was mainly just me entertaining myself lol."  As for her opponent, she wishes him luck going forward. "For me there isn't a difference in pinning boys or girls, a pin is a pin and a pin is a win... So I'm grateful regardless. Wrestling is a tough sport and I respect my opponents because we give it our all."

The longest video you could put on Instagram is 15 seconds. Maybe for the next story with Erin, she could put the whole match on the website Vine, which has a match length of 7 seconds. After all, as Erin says, " One thing I can't stand is not making progress."One thing I can't stand is not making progress."

Monday, December 17, 2012

No purse? No makeup? No problem!

The 2012-13 wrestling season has seen a lot of victories for girls. My facebook newsfeed and wrestling group has blown up with victory stories and pictures. And though its not all that unusual anymore for a girl to be on a boys wrestling team, many boys still cannot handle losing to a girl.

This story is one that I found rather unique. It’s not your usual boy loses to girl, gets pissed forever, or boy loses to girl and is immediately OK with it. Despite both Keneddi and myself asking for an interview with Robert, he did not respond.

Keneddi Eddings has been wrestling for six years. While there are many wrestlers who embrace that they are a girl on the mat, Keneddi is one of those girls that says a wrestler is a wrestler, and while she admits to enjoying facing boys more than girls because of the challenge, she says, “In wrestling, a win is a win.”

Last season, she had four matches vs. a boy named Robert. Before their first match, Keneddi was nervous, which she says, is natural. “I’m always nervous before a match, I'm very doubtful. I think about what the boy will do and what I can do to stop it. He was bigger than me so I thought he would have more strength than me. And I thought that he was thinking he would have an easy match because I was a girl, all guys think that. He probably thought he'd go out there and pin me.”

The match started and Keneddi tried to get a feel of Robert, before going into attack mode. “I played defense more than being aggressive. He got the first take down and was dominating top. “ But the lead would be very quick for Robert, as right after they got into referees position, Keneddi let Robert throw a half, and she countered with a quick roll, stuck him on his back, and got the pin.

Keneddi 1

Robert 0

As you would expect, the two wrestlers had vastly different emotions. Keneddi says, “I felt great! It was a win on my record! I got up and walked to the middle of the circle to get my hand raised and to shake hands with him. He laid there and threw his headgear and walked off the mat, without shaking hands.” Keneddi had mixed feelings about Robert’s reaction. “I enjoyed it, because it made me look good hah. But I got mad because he thought of it as losing to a girl. He wouldn’t have done it if he were wrestling another boy. It was disrespectful and it just shows how he felt losing to a “girl.” And I hate being called a girl. I’m a wrestler. I want to be seen as equal to the boys.”

While Keneddi wanted to be seen as an equal, Robert wanted to get equal. But Keneddi was fired up for the rematch. “I was thinking about how bad I wanted the win, how much I deserved it, how bad I wanted to show him that I wasn't just a girl, I was a wrestler just like him.”

Unlike their previous match, Keneddi was going to try to take control early. “I started very aggressive because I was angry. And he was aggressive too. I got the take down and he reversed it. We went to the second period and I chose down. I always choose down.  I hit a roll again and stuck him and his back and got the pin.” Keneddi says she was thinking, “I did it, I got it again.”

Same move, same result. It’s my “go to” move. You have to use it when they're not expecting it because it's simple to stop if they are.”

Keneddi 2

Robert 0

Keneddi says anyone who watched both matches, knew who the better wrestler is. “It felt good because he couldn't make the excuse that I won out of luck. He couldn't say that he had a bad day or he was tired. I won a second time so it showed I was a better wrestler.

And much to Keneddi’s disappointment, Robert’s reaction did not change.  “The same as the first time. Though this time, his coach made him shake my hand, but he didn't look at me and he stomped off the mat.” Keneddi refused to sink down to his level. “I composed myself like any wrestler should. I shook his hand had the ref raise my hand, then I shook his coaches hand and ran off the mats.”

Keneddi though was, “kinda surprised” when Robert contacted her on Facebook. He didn’t mention the wrestling match but apologized for being rude. Keneddi was very pleased. “He said he'd see me at the next tournament, and that he wanted a rematch so he could finally beat me. I said I hope we get a match and that was about it.”

Keneddi actually surprised me by what she said next. I asked her if she had “stuff to prove or not that much?” It was a bad question, because it led her to an answer. The answer I was expecting was she already proved she could beat him, the match wouldn’t mean that much to her. But she said, “Of course I had stuff to prove, he still wanted to beat me and he still thought he could.”

Turns out, he was sorta right. Robert wanted the match a lot more than Keneddi, and his performance showed it. At the end of the 2nd period, Robert had a staggering 10-0 lead. Only five more points and he would tech the girl that pinned him twice. Keneddi realized this, and decided she would show Robert moves he hadn’t seen before. “I thought I had nothing to lose, so take some shots. Try some new moves that I could score with, and give it my all and nothing less. The worst that could happen was he would get a tech.”

Robert didn’t get a tech. As a matter of fact, Keneddi smoked Robert and picked up 10 unanswered points to tie the match. It was now going to head into overtime! Keneddi’s plan had worked, but there was no time to celebrate. “I was very nervous heading into overtime. It was like a "fight to the death" hah. It was all or nothing. I knew he wanted it bad and he knew how bad I wanted it. I'm a very nervous wrestler and I over think, but this time all I was thinking is what my coach said to me, "you have more heart." And it stuck with me during OT. The kid was stronger and faster but I had more in me to win it.”

Losing, was not an option Keneddi wanted to face. “It would have been a tough loss. Just to know I worked my hardest and let the win slip away in OT. It would have been pointless to come back in the first place.”

The overtime started, Robert went for a takedown, and Keneddi says she did a “funky flip thing,” put Robert on his back and pinned him.

Keneddi 3

Robert 0

While most wrestlers would have forgotten the first two rounds and focused on the glorious ending, Keneddi says her emotions were conflicted. “I was mad at myself because I went in cocky and not confident, and I almost lost because of it.” But she couldn’t deny herself the feeling of glee for the epic comeback. “It was the best feeling ever! My coach called me Tebow (for Tim Tebow who at the time generated many 4th quarter comebacks for the Denver Broncos) because of my great comeback.”

With more time to reflect, Keneddi knew she should have done better. “I was happy because I got another win, it was good for me. I proved to myself I have what it takes to become a great wrestler and I showed my coach that I won't give up, he can trust me in a tight situation to deliver my best . But I was upset because it was nothing new. Like I was happy I beat him but I did it before so I wasn't shocked that it happened. I was mad that I let it go to OT because I beat him so easily before.”

Much like the first match, Robert stormed off the match without shaking Keneddi’s hand. Despite the new found friendship that was forming, the loss seemed too hard to take. “I didn’t think he was a sore loser, he was just very frustrated.”


Going into their fourth match, Keneddi didn’t want to stay undefeated verse Robert. “It was very important to keep a clean record! I was undefeated in the league. And this match I was nervous because I knew how bad he wanted this one too.” But it was more than that for Keneddi.  The matches became personal. “Knowing that he wanted it so badly, does motivate me,, because they think they want it more than I do, and I know they don't. He's going nowhere with wrestling and I'm making it into my career. I have to prove myself to my team my coach, scouts and other team. Everyone saw me beat him 3 times and losing to him the last time would be the worst.”

“The worst” looked like a certainty. Just like the last match, Robert had Keneddi in trouble.  “He was dominating the whole match. He got back points consistently and kept getting take downs. He had me on my back the 3rd period and got a 5 count and was about to pin me. I was thinking basically "oh crap!" How did I get in this position! And I just fought to get off my back.”

Keneddi fought hard and eventually turned the tables, and now had Robert in trouble. “My thoughts before were if I don't stick it I'm done, I lose, that's it. I have less than 30 seconds to pin this kid. And when the ref hit the mat a rush of relief went through me.”

Keneddi 4

Robert 0

Relief, not elation. “I felt kinda ‘blah.” I pinned him again. I didn’t feel it was an accomplishment, even though in retrospect it was.”

But with the perspective of time, Keneddi has come to appreciate this fourth match. “It was really important to me. Like I said if I consistently beat him he couldn't say it was out of luck or that he had a bad day or something. I wanted everyone to know that I could beat him over and over again. I wanted everyone to know, including Robert, that I am the better wrestler.”

But don’t take this attitude as cockiness. I’ve seen a lot of girls be cocky, and Keneddi isn’t that girl. Though he stormed off the mat and cried every time he lost, she wishes he didn’t, whereas many girls would love to rub that in. “I do feel I was in his head that season, and I’m glad.”

But she’s not glad because she wants him to feel “owned” as many girl wrestlers would. She said, “I’m glad I’m in his head because I hope that motivates him to become a better wrestler.”

And though they are friends now, Keneddi wants him to feel OK with the losses. “I never have trash talked him. Guys do that to me all the time, so I would never to it to him.”

But she still wants him to know she’s the better wrestler.

Friday, November 2, 2012

I Got Your Back

While most of the stories I write are dedicated to wrestling, there have been a few grappling matches that I’ve written about. While the sports have many similarities, the biggest difference I see, is you don’t just beat your opponent in grappling, you make them submit. They decide when the pain is too much, and the only way to stop the pain, is to tap out.

Amanda Leve is 15-years-old, and has been training in BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) for four years. She often has to compete in boys divisions, because there aren’t that many girls, or women to compete with. Amanda enjoys battling either, but she says, “Personally, I like fighting the boys because a ton of more people watches it and I get noticed.”

That’s the other big difference between the sports, when a boy faces a girl. In wrestling, the results are typically confined to whoever was at the match, and word of mouth. But when the genders clash in grappling, there often is a video and said video gets thousands of views. And both competitors would rather thousands of people see their hands raised, then their opponents. The video of this match can be seen here.

Amanda traveled a long way to fight. She’s from Philadelphia, and has traveled all over the east coast, but this tournament was in Vegas.  It was the UFC Fan Exop, and Grappler’s Quest.  She was both excited and nervous.

And she had reason to be. Her name was called and she saw her opponent. She was not facing a scrawny boy, but a young man. His name was Wyatt, and he was two years older, bigger, and didn’t have an ounce of fat on him. Amanda noticed, “The boy I was going to grapple in my opinion was huge and muscular. I thought, ‘Oh great, this might not end well.’” 

Wyatt did not lack for confidence. Amanda says, “He had an arrogant smile on his face. It wasn’t the first time I have seen a smile like that. They (boys) usually all have that smile.”

Amanda says Wyatt’s cockiness did not end there. “We shook hands and he came at me rather aggressively. I was pretty mad how fast and aggressive he was.” Amanda did not travel all this way to get run over. “He didn’t come at me aggressively with technique, he came at me wildly, and I strongly dislike that when it comes to a sport where using technique is key.”

If it was just inexperience, Amanda wouldn’t be upset, but she thought it was something else. “I think he did that because he was going against a girl, and his friends were there.”

For wrestling fans, it would appear Wyatt was dominating. He got Amanda down to the ground in only 5 seconds. But Amanda was “pulling guard.” For those that don’t know what pulling guard means, Wyatt was on top but Amanda had her legs crossed, around his midsection.  So though Wyatt was on top, he wasn’t in control. However Amanda was still nervous. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t, but that’s because I’m always nervous. I felt his strength, and I did get a little nervous, but I reassured myself that I have gone against stronger guys where I train everyday.”

After around 20 seconds in that position, the ref called time and moved the grapplers back to the middle of the mat. They both re-started from the position they were in.

“In jiu jitsu being fast is as good as being strong. I knew I had to move quickly, so I ended up pulling his posture down, and getting an arm triangle and moving around to his back.” It only took Amanda three seconds to get the triangle, and if you listen closely, you can hear him gargle for breath. Amanda did not notice, “I was too in the zone.” 

Wyatt was no longer the aggressor, as he tried to get Amanda off of him. Amanda was in very good position now. She had him on his side, squeezing his neck. But she knew she couldn’t make him tap from this position. “When I had him on his side with the arm triangle I knew that I wouldn’t finish it from there.” She also was not overconfident. “I did not think the match was mine because I never like to assume things especially in jiu jitsu. People can escape things as fast as you put them in it.”

So Amanda decided she wanted to be more in control, and gave up the neck, and scooted behind him to get on his back. “The back take is my best position in jiu jitsu. Many people have trouble escaping my back control.”

Wyatt would prove to be no different. And though he must have been happy to be able to breathe, it didn’t last long. “Once I got his back, I snuck in the rear naked choke which cuts off the blood going to his head. I started squeezing as hard as I could.”

At the 1:09 mark of the video, Amanda had the RNC locked in. Wyatt didn’t give up, and began to try to twist Amanda’s foot. Amanda capitalized on his mistake. “I thought his defense was ok until I got onto his back. His back defense was extremely bad. When you are getting choked the first thing you want to do is protect your neck. He was gabbing at my feet while I was choking him. That is the last thing you want to do when somebody has a choke on.”

Though Amanda doesn’t like to assume victory, she knew what everyone else knew, the end was imminent. “Yes at that point I knew it was over and that I just had to stay strong with the choke. The choke was in so tight because he was not defending right and the back position is second nature to me from drilling it so many times. I was just thinking squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.”

At the 1:16 mark, you can see Amanda gritting her teeth and digging in the choke. Wyatt stayed tough for 10 more seconds, but eventually tapped Amanda’s arm 7-8 times to signify his submission.

It was an amazing moment for Amanda. “I was feeling excited and happy. I was thinking, "HA! YES! Did this just happen?! Wow, there are so many people watching!"

The two went to the middle of the ring for Amanda to get her hand raised. She couldn’t help but show off. “Hahaha I love being in front of the camera. I always put the thumbs up and make a weird smile. It is just me.”

Amanda was ecstatic with the result.  “I couldn't believe how fast I beat him. I didn't expect to beat him so quickly because of how he was built. I was super proud that I beat him so quickly. No disrespect to him, his instructor or school, but I feel as if he was easier than most.”

After the ref put up Amanda’s hand, they competitors shook hands and Wyatt said, “You are stronger than I thought.” Amanda laughed and said, “Good match.”

Amanda still smiles when thinking of the match. “Looking back it feels awesome that I can prove my strength to a boy. I know he was stronger than me so I realized I had to use my strength and speed.”

But she’s not the only one who has “looked back” on that match. To date, it has 46,322 views. When I started writing this story, it had 45,940. So in a couple hours it still has gained almost 400 new views. Amanda loves it. “It is extremely cool to see all the views. It is way more than I could have even imagined and I am still shocked.”

Amanda hopes to be a role model for young girls. “I want little girls to want to start jiu jitsu too! I want everybody to respect girls in jiu jitsu.”

And she has a message to anyone that may go against her in the future; bring your best, because she will. “I will NEVER back down from anybody no matter how big, strong or scary.”

As Wyatt learned the hard way, Amanda “has your back.”

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Senior Night Upset!

You can’t get more David vs. Goliath than this story. If a high school senior is going against a high school freshman, 100 out of 100 times, you would go with the senior if you didn’t know the history of the two athletes.  Now make the high school senior a boy wrestler and the high school freshman a girl wrestler. Now you may take the boy senior 101 out of 100 times?

But before you go to Vegas, you better make sure that girl isn’t Brooke Bunch.

Brooke and her Connesville High School team were pissed. They had gotten slaughtered the weekend before, and were ready to extract some revenge. Hagerstown was a welcome sight to Brooke’s teammates. As Brooke said, “This was going to be one of the easiest teams for us to beat.” Just not for Brooke.

You see, Brooke, a 9th grade freshman, wasn’t just going up against a senior, she was going up against the boy on his night…Senior Night.

But Brooke didn’t realize she would be going up against a senior, at least not at first. She was still mad about the weekend prior, but happy that they would be going up against a team not as talented.  “Well, this was a dual meet against one of the easiest teams for us to beat, and it was just after we had gotten beaten pretty bad at a rough tournament the weekend before. It was the Hagerstown Senior Night. The junior varsity kids went first, then our heavyweight and then me. I had gotten beaten an insane amount the weekend before.”

So Brooke decided to try and scope out who her opponent would be. “The seniors were walking with their parents and by the time the heavyweight match was going on, which was right before mine, I realized I was going against a senior. I was really nervous because I never went against one before.”

Brooke didn’t want to believe her bad luck. “Oh no. Please say they're kidding. Come on guys! He's going to kick my butt and go as hard as possible especially since it's his senior night."

But this was no time for a pity party, and Brooke knew it. Once she got on the mat, Brooke’s confidence grew. “The kid had huge leg muscles, but overall he looked pretty weak. Though I can’t underestimate him.”

So despite being 3-4 years younger, Brooke went from being incredibly nervous, to fighting back cockiness. And then the two wrestlers shook hands, something odd happened, both wrestlers thought victory was in the bag. Brooke says, “When we shook hands, I knew for sure I had the match. My hand shake was a lot firmer.” But the Hagerstown boy, named Ryan, didn’t lack for confidence against Brooke. “He had this look in his eyes like he knew he was gonna win. That look drove me harder.”

She was really mad that he had so much confidence? “Yeah it set me off. I knew that if I didn't beat him, he'd brag to all of his friends and everything so I knew I had to put him in his place.”

Then the match started and it was time for both wrestlers to put up or shut up. Her opponent, Ryan, went for the victory early. “He went for a quick shot and got a takedown. I tried to sprawl but couldn’t get out in time.”

The period ended with the boy being up 2-0. Many freshman wrestlers would be freaking out, but not Brooke.  It was 2-0 him and I knew I had to get a reversal and I wasn't nervous. I'm typically good at getting my reversals. It was a deferral and went to his decision and he chose top so I knew for sure that I had to try my hardest.”

While I wasn’t able to contact her opponent, Brooke says, “He probably felt pretty confident. He most likely felt stronger than me as well. Otherwise he wouldn't have chosen top. My coach knows how good I am on bottom and figured my opponent would chose top which is why we deferred.”

Girls often think their opponent is stronger too, but not this time. Brooke says, “Not really.  I could turn him easily. That usually takes all of my strength. But he had very strong leg muscles.”

The 2nd Period started and Brooke immediately turned the tables. “I reversed with my sit out switch. I quickly broke him down just enough to slide my legs in and ride him out and eventually got a power half in and got him in a near pinning situation.” She had now taken the lead, 4-2.

That’s when her opponent and teammates started realizing, he was in for a match. “Don't let her beat you on your night!!!" "You can't get beat by a girl!!" and many more remarks.” Brooke heard them all, but felt she was going to do exactly what his teammates didn’t want. Ruin his night. “I got pretty confident because I had been riding legs with a power half pretty much the whole period and he could hardly move.”

And once again, most freshman wrestlers would over exert themselves because of their emotions, and most seniors would have the experience to stay the course. But the roles were reversed.  “I knew I had to keep my emotions under control and stay composed.” Brooke says, her opponent was anything but composed, “I had infuriated him. He was raging. He kept bucking trying to get me off of him.” This spurred on Brooke even more. “Yeah, I understood that if I could just ride him out a little longer he would be mentally broke.”

With the match still very close, Brooke realized how important this was. “Well normally when an opponent is mentally broke they're upset they're losing, getting angry at themselves or the person they're wrestling, or they just give up. And yes, he was mentally broke by the end of the period. I felt pretty confident and excited.”

Ryan  made a critical mistake by choosing bottom for the 3rd Period. He couldn’t escape Brooke’s legs the 2nd Period, and things didn’t change for the third. “I was completely baffled. He had been rode out all of last period but still went for it.”

“It” didn’t work. Brooke was able to hold him down  and ride legs until there were 30 seconds left. This was a big match for Brooke and she knew it. “I was extremely worried, but I tried to stay calm and focused.”

 While Brooke wanted to win, her opponent needed to win. And to his credit, he did not give up. “There was thirty seconds left, he knocked me off of him (I was riding legs) and went for my leg. With 10 seconds left, I staggered on foot while he's holding on to the other. I had a 1/4 Nelson in trying to keep him down. 5 seconds left and I'm getting extremely nervous, he takes my legs and starts to lift me but doesn't get a takedown before the buzzer went off.”

The match was over, Brooke had won. But the boy wasn’t ready to accept defeat. He wouldn’t let go, until he finally took Brooke down.  “I kept telling him the whistle blew, to let go. But he didn't until I was on the ground. My seniors got mad, but it was actually kind of funny.”

Brooke has a theory on why he wouldn’t let go. “I don't think he let go because he wanted to show he was still dominant.” But after losing to her 4-2, Brooke doesn’t see it. When I asked if she felt he succeeded in being dominant she said, “No, not at all.” As a matter of fact, Brooke felt it was the other way around. She was the one who felt dominant.

“I had just beaten him on his senior night and left him scoreless for two periods. When we went to shake hands I was pretty calm about it, just the normal firm handshake I always have. But his handshake changed from weak to an extremely  weak handshake. You could tell he was about to burst into tears.”

Brooke couldn’t help but feel for her opponent. “I actually felt bad. I know what it feels like to lose and he had just lost in front of his hometown with everyone rooting him on. I put him in his place and accomplished what I had wanted but at the same time I know how bad that sucks. ”

Though she feels badly for her opponent, she cant help but enjoy her win. I asked her if this was one of her favorite matches, “Yeah, I suppose it is. I liked the satisfaction that came along with the win. Just being able to beat a senior on his senior night felt pretty darn great.”

It’s a match, that Brooke cant help but feel conflicted. “Exactly!! I loved the fact that I had a guy older than me mentally broke and crying but at the same time feel bad because that was probably extremely embarrassing. Haha.”

And while some girls like, but don’t admit they like when the boy cries, Brooke tells it straight. She enjoyed it. “I was glad. That's what he got for underestimating me.”

Brooke’s last words for her opponent and future opponents, “Never underestimate an opponent, they might just surprise you with a win.”

Monday, June 11, 2012


For girl wrestling on boys teams, there are many hurdles to overcome. A pleasant personality and strong work ethic and wrestling for the “right reasons” help. But do you know what’s better? Winning. And in wrestling, style points count. Wrestlers may not admit it, but enough have talked about what pin they’ve used or how much their armbar hurt their opponent, to know that if you kick ass, your teammates will notice. And Kayla McRorie knows how to kick ass. But that wasn’t always the case for Kayla.

Kayla goes to Sault Area High School in Michigan. I first interviewed her on August 4, 2010. I asked her if she would be interested in doing a story with me and she responded, “Well, I really don’t have any good wrestling stories.” The 2009-2010 season was not a great one for Kayla. She had a losing record and said she, “Hardly won any matches.” 

Typically I will write to them a few months later and see how their next season is going, and they often tell me they quit the sport. I do understand but I always find it sad, that one losing season can get to them that easily. So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Kayla started the 2010-2011 season 2-0. On December 26, 2010, I inquired how she was doing and she told me she was 12-3, with “only 3 wins being against girls.” Kayla had obvious pride with having a 9-3 record vs. boys. 

When you think about it, wrestling is the most intimate and personal sport there is. Tennis can play mind games, boxing can break you, but wrestling challenges you in ways that are hard to describe. The competitors are constantly touching and you can feel your opponents will against yours. And in the end, the loser is helpless as he or she cant get up when someone else is holding them down. Then the loser has to go to the middle of the ring, and watch the winners hand get raised.
For the loser, it can be a very humbling experience. And though I often complain about many girls not having a killer attitude, this is my favorite part about girls wrestling. If a girl loses to a boy and has to face them again, they look forward to the challenge.

I’ve asked almost every girl I’ve interviewed their favorite match. And many will say the third match against a certain boy, because they got teched the first time, pinned the second, and almost beat him the third. They glow with pride that this once vastly superior wrestler, is *now* just a little better than them.  Many girls who were beaten by other girls have told me, “Yeah I want to win first place, but I want the match to be against xxxxx, because she beat me last year and I want revenge.”  And most of the girls I’ve spoken to, get significantly better and surprise the wrestler that has beaten them multiple times before.

But for boys, I’ve found its not that way, at least when they have to face a girl that has beaten them before. Caitlyn McCracken beat a boy named Ronnie three times and said, ““And I would like to say it got easier with each match.  Which means I just wanted to beat him more eagerly each time.”  Morgan Belanger beat a boy named James three times and said, “James will always be the person who took the best and worst of me at the same time I guess. He portrayed me to be greater than him, to my team, and thus created me in a greater light. Like I was the greater wrestler, always, when compared against him.” Darby Newman beat the same boy twice, and she said, ““I felt like I had accomplished something great. It was great doing it twice. The feeling of beating this kid again was amazing.”

As you can see, the girls felt invigorated with their multiple victories. And their teammates noticed.
Enter Kayla. It was her first match of her junior year. She was coming off two seasons that she wasn’t proud of. And for the first match, she was facing a boy from Cheboygan High School. Much like Kayla, he too was about to impress me, but in a much different way. Though he gave me permission to use his name, I’m going to call him Chris in case he changes his mind and doesn’t want this story to show up in a google search.

Kayla was coming off an injury and a concussion and she wasn’t planning on wrestling that day, but her new coach asked her if she wanted to give it a go and Kayla said yes. Though Kayla hadn’t been practicing and was coming off what she considered a subpar year, Chris was a welcome site. “Well last year he was like 95ish pounds. So I thought he is smaller than me and I have more experience and he’s a freshman, so I told myself I could beat him. “ She also saw herself in Chris. “As a freshman I was that little 95 pound kid. So I knew what it was like. But I gained a few pounds over the summer and I had been lifting weights so I was stronger. So that’s another reason I was more confident, because I was a little bit bigger and had been going to off-season tourneys all summer. My coach had a lot of confidence in me and I didn’t want to let him down.”

As soon as the match started, she knew she wouldn’t.  “Once he took a shot, I sprawled and I knew I could beat him. He wasn’t very strong. He shot, I sprawled, got behind him and got the takedown. From there he was easy to breakdown. He didn’t have a good stand up and the first time I got a near-fall. I told myself I was doing fine and to just keep doing that the rest of the match.”

Kayla worked hard to try and get the pin but Chris fought her attempts off each time and when the match finally ended, Kayla didn’t know why. “At first when the ref blew the whistle to signal the match was over I was confused because I didn’t notice what the score was. But then I looked over and realized I had teched him, but I really just wanted to pin him.”

Though a tad disappointed with getting the tech, Kayla had a lot to be proud of. She was not 100% for the match, “I was just getting over a concussion, and I was just happy the match was over. I started to feel dizzy.”

It wouldn’t be a good sign of things to come for Chris, as he got teched by a wrestler who was still suffering the effects of a concussion. Imagine what would happen when she was healthy?

Chris was to find out exactly what would happen two more times last season. He went against Kayla twice, and was pinned both times. “I was happy that I pinned him. I like pinning people better because at our school we get pin-pins when we pin a kid. The team manager makes them. We wear them on our varsity jacket, the colors are the school colors from whatever school the kid is from.”
Her teammates began to notice, Kayla was collecting a lot of pin-pins. “My team wasn’t very good, we lost a lot of duals, but my teammates were always happy when I’d wrestle because it was pretty much a sure thing I’d get us team points. Most of my losses from last season were from individual meets. “

Unlike the previous two seasons, Kayla was very happy her junior year, as she finished 32-12, a big improvement over 15-15. “Its dedication. I was wrestling all year long, off-season tourneys, wrestling camps…the victories helped me gain confidence in myself, especially the first time I wrestled Chris. Its nice to beat someone over and over because it shows that you’re actually better than that person, and you didn’t just get lucky.”

But as Kayla proved, things change quickly in wrestling. Especially for boys who have growth spurts. And Chris had one. Kayla went from outweighing him, to being outweighed. They once again met to start the 2011-12 season and just from the looks of things, last years dominance may not continue. “He was my first match and I was a little nervous because he was bigger than me.” But her nervousness was short-lived.

Chris was 112, and Kayla 103 pounds. Chris made the mistake of asking Kayla’s coach what weight Kayla was wrestling at, and when he found out she was smaller than him and not in his weight class, he was relieved. According to Kayla, Chris didn’t want to wrestle her, even though she was smaller and he had an advantage. “I thought it was kinda weird because he was bigger than me now, and I didn’t see why he wouldn’t want to wrestle me, considering I thought he’d just out muscle me. But it didn’t surprise me all that much, because he did bump away from me last year also. It did kind of bug me, but at the same time I just kind of laughed about it.”

Kayla understands that losing to the same person sucks, she’s lost to the same state qualifier a bunch of times, but she says, “I liked wrestling him because I knew the only way to get better, is to wrestle someone better than you.” Once she even pinned the state qualifier, but you have to be willing to get pinned to pin someone.

But it was soon clear why Chris didn’t want to wrestle Kayla. “We shook hands, the whistle blew, Chris took a shot, a really bad one. I realized his technique wasn’t any better from last year. I got an under-hook or a tomahawk, and threw him to his back and pinned him. It wasn’t a very long match.” As it turns out, Kayla didn’t have to worry about being out-muscled. “Not really, as it turns out, he was just taller.”

Kayla was a bit surprised Chris didn’t follow her career path. “Well last year I was just kind of whatever, he’s a freshman, he’ll get better. He was under 100 pounds just like I was. But this year it was just like the same thing, other than he was bigger. I was surprised he didn’t get any better or that he didn’t out-muscle me.” Kayla wanted to know why.

“His teammate told me he just messes around at practice. But I still give him props for sticking with it. I respect most of the wrestlers as long as they don’t throw fits when they lose (to a boy or a girl).”
The next time they wrestled it was more of the same, except the according to Kayla, the ref wasn’t very good. “I had him pinned a few times and the ref never called it. So I ended up teching him 17-0. I was a little annoyed the ref didn’t call it but our team was beating theirs so bad it really didn’t matter.”

While a pin can be quick, a tech is not. You spend a long time out on that mat, where one person is controlling the whole match. “I made him work. I made him shoot, I’d sprawl, get behind, get a near-fall, and he’d end up getting to his stomach. Then we would just repeat the process.”
The third time they wrestled this season Kayla was already being interviewed for the series of matches she had. It was the first time they wrestled since the interview started. A lot was on the line, considering a loss, would change the story dramatically for Kayla. “I was pretty nervous to go wrestle him, because I was like, what if he gets lucky and beats me?” But once the match started, there was nothing to be nervous about. “I calmed down and acted like it was just another match, and that I could do it.”

The video clearly shows the frustration of Chris, and the confidence of Kayla. Chris tries several times to shoot but Kayla easily just backs away. One of his teammates or coaches implores Chris, “Look at what you’re shooting at.” But then the coach is heard saying, “You’re not looking!!” He was right, his head was on the floor when he shot. Kayla quickly capitalized putting him in a front headlock, then grabbing his leg and riding him to the mat. Chris was on his stomach and Kayla ran a chickenwing and pinned him with a little bit left in the first period.”

If you watch the video, it appears Kayla was barely trying. And she and her coach agrees. “ (laughs) I wasn’t really trying, I was being lazy. The next day at practice coach was teasing me and told me I can’t always be so lazy.”

Though she may have been lazy for a match, you don’t go from a pretty bad losing record, to 15-15, to 32-12, to her senior year record of 39-10 by being lazy. You do it through hard work, believing in yourself, and positive reinforcement. And Kayla was able to get that in the form of Chris, who she defeated “six or seven times” by pin or tech without ever losing.

And to Chris’ credit, he agreed to an interview and realizes how good Kayla is. “She is most definitely the best person I've ever wrestled. No doubt. Out of the multiple times I've wrestled her, I have yet to beat her once. She is really flexible, and really strong. My matches with her have been some of my favorite matches.”

His favorite??? I was floored when he said that. He explained, “They've always been the toughest matches. I've had some pretty hard matches before, but none as hard as her.” Kayla had a similar reaction “(laughs) I’m not going to lie, that surprised me.”

Chris was mature beyond his years, and a class act. But he also was too self aware for his own good. “I really want to beat her, but honestly, she has alot more skill than I do, and I dont plan on beating her.” Kayla says she hopes Chris loses that attitude, because he will never get better. “No wrestler should think like that because anything is possible if you work hard enough for it. Because if you think you can’t do something then you won’t be able to. I used to be just like that having a negative attitude towards my opponents that were better than me.”  

And then Kayla told me about a time she lost to a girl, wanted a rematch, got it and beat her with a four point move with 30 seconds left to beat her by 1, at the finals of a tournament.
And that’s what I loved about writing this story. Kayla want from a girl who wrestled that had little confidence and didn’t believe in herself, to someone who doesn’t back away from a challenge, and became a wrestler. I’m hoping I can say the same thing about Chris next season. My advice would be work as hard as Kayla did.