On Saturday, December 18, I attended a duals wrestling tournament at my alma mater, Franklin Regional High School. I don’t know anything about wrestling, but it looks a lot like airport security.
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‘Ann,’ a sophomore who is scorekeeping for Lower Burrell, explains the game to me.
“Right here where it’s first period, we watch the ref. Say he brings up a ‘two,’ that’s just normal takedown. But if he touches it off his shoulder it’s a nearfall, which is ‘back points.’ Those are sometimes three points. If he goes like this–” (Ann makes her fists circle each other in a tumbling motion) “It’s a reversal.”
“So it’s kind of like what I’ve heard about boxing, where there are different numbers of points for different moves and different maneuvers?” I asked. The sophomore gets the technicalities way better than I do.
“Basically,” Ann says. She goes on to explain that an escape is one point, a reversal is one, and a “tech” is a special 5-point award given to a wrestler who widens his lead to 15. Six points are given for a pin. However, if there are no pins during the match, three points are still awarded to the wrestler who is leading in all other types of scores at the end of the match.
Each match consists of three two-minute periods. The match stops for injury time-outs and blood time-outs, because the mat has to be cleaned. Ann adds that if you have ringworm, you can’t wrestle.
I support that rule. But it gets worse.
“So,” I ask Ann, “In the past, there have been health concerns about athletes trying to wrestle at lower weighs than may be healthy for them. What do teams do to prevent these things from happening?”
Ann told me a story about her brother, a wrestler at Lower Burrell. He had successfully gotten down to 103 lbs and defeated his opponents at a high-level tournament. But he elected not to advance. The reason? “He wanted to eat again,” said Ann. She added that some wrestlers use laxatives while keeping their weights down, sometimes resulting in mat accidents.
“One ref held his nose while signaling an injury time-out,” Ann says.
Watching the matches, I take several match videos, learning about the ref signals and everything Ann said. But, I wonder what the athletes would say. Did modern-day MMA fights influence their decision to get involved with such an intense sport? I asked a few coaches and athletes the same two questions:
- How did you get into wrestling? What made you choose the sport?
- Wrestling is a sport that the common spectator doesn’t know a lot about. What would you say to help people understand it better and get into it?
Ryan Yates is the Head Coach of Burell Wrestling. “My dad was an elementary wrestling coach,” he says. “When I was really little, he took me up to the wrestling practices all the time. Hanging around with some of the older wrestlers, I just kind of took a liking to it.”
Yates answers my second question. “It’s a tough, physical sport that requires a lot of discipline. On and off the mat, too – in the sense that guys are cutting a lot of weight and guys are training really hard. Injuries pop up and you have to battle through them. I think a lot of people get excited to watch guys that train hard and work hard and reap the benefits in the long run. Especially in our home crowd… they like to see their guys go out there and perform well and get some wins.”
“So you’ve got a big following at Lower Burrell?” I ask.
“Yeah,” says Yates. “Our fans – they come out, they support us, they’re die-hard wrestling fans. When you have a team that’s successful, it’s really exciting to watch the team perform throughout the year.”
Head Coach Eric Mauser of Franklin Regional Wrestling gives his own take. “I started playing football when I was eight years old, and coaches told me a good sport to work with to get into shape for football was wrestling. So I started wrestling that next year. I was nine years old and as soon as I started, I fell in love with it. It ended up I wrestled and played football all through high school. It came down to making a choice of what to do in college. I decided to go into wrestling, which I like more. I had some success in it, I enjoyed it, and that’s the route I took.”
As to what would help bring the masses to the sport, Mauser has some ideas. “I think the best thing about this sport is events like this where you have 12 teams that came in here today. Most of them have full lineups – there’s a ton of matches. Everybody gets five matches and you’re going to see a lot. And that’s what it takes – just coming to the matches, sitting down, watching it if you say, like some people, ‘it’s not basketball – it’s not running up and down the court.’ It’s two guys beating the heck out of each other. It’s a man’s sport, that’s what it is. You’re going at it one-on-one and just battling for six minutes. So it’s a great sport.”
Joshua Visokey, a senior wrestler from Perry High School, also chose wrestling as a result of family influences. “I got into wrestling because all of my friends were doing it when I was little. My uncle won the state championship in high school. So he kind of pushed it on me, just to try it. I tried it in seventh grade and liked it so I just stuck with it.”
Visokey shared Mauser’s opinions on what would aid the popularity of the sport. “Find a team you like and just follow them throughout the season. There’s always going to be ups and downs, no matter what team you like. You can like the best team in the state or the worst team in the state there’s always going to be ups and downs. [Wrestling] helps young boys become men. It’s the way I’ve always looked at it.”
Visokey has some additional information for me. He tells me about ‘Courtney,’ who wrestles for Perry regardless of the fact that she is a female in a primarily male sport. “It’s not that hard,” she tells me. “It’s not really any more contact than other sports.” Go Courtney!
Visokey also tells me about Franklin Regional’s Nico Megaludis. He’s won the state championship and three Powerade Wrestling Tournament titles. He excels in every weight class he competes in. So, what got Megaludis into wrestling?
“My dad, when I was about five. We had a basement in our house and we had a wrestling room. Just pretty much rolling around all the time with my dad – he got me into it. He wrestled in high school and just loved the sport and wanted to get me into it.
To help people get into wrestling, Nico has some ideas of what to say. “It’s the toughest sport. It’s a lot on your body. If you want to do well, it’s so much time in the wrestling room and it’s a brutal sport.”
“That would probably help them get into it,” I chuckle. “Just tell them it’s brutal, huh.”
“Yeah,” Nico says, good-naturedly.
Franklin Regional Wrestling beat all of their opponents except Burrell, who won the tournament. Congrats also go out to Burgettstown, who won three of their five matches.
Right now, our key wrestlers are at this year’s Powerade 2010 Christmas Wrestling Tournament at Cannon McMillan High School. Follow the tournament here.
Also, congrats again to Nico Megaludis for signing with Penn State, according to Paul Schofield of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.