Wrestling With A Boy's First Sport


Wrestling With A Boy's First Sport

  • Gregory Dickens

    Rakishly handsome comic creator, rasslin fan, occasional runner, and supervillain sous chef.

It’s been awhile since I posted here because of two factors:

1. In the winter months between comic conventions, artist types like me hunker down and make stuff to sell throughout the year. You sit for a long time. I sprouted roots that entwined the legs of my drawing table. Starting next month, I chew my way through my Groot feet and travel hither and yon to sell prints and comics.

2. Our house sounded like the fifth act of La Boehme. It wasn’t flu (luckily), and it wasn’t bronchitis (like last year), but we all swapped head gunk like dank Pokemons.

Despite the lack of significant snow, it’s still been an indoor winter, either sharp cold or rainy warm. That seriously hindered my running, and now I’m trying to whittle away the weight of inactivity. I’m out of practice. I finally got out this past weekend – sunny, 60ish, rare – and realized I forgot my mechanics, flailing down the road like Phoebe Buffay.

This means The Deputy was also inside a lot, jumping off the furniture in his hero costumes. His croup made him sound more like Christian Bale’s Batman than he could ever have intended. He also watched virtually all of Netflix. Did you know Netflix dropped The Avengers movie in December? We didn’t. That wasn’t a fun discovery. Between his anxiety and congestion, he turned into Gollum.

But the head colds have subsided somewhat. They’re never really gone, mind you. We still all wake up and cough up something not dissimilar to the tequila worm demon in Poltergeist 2, but we can at least go out in public again. That lets us consider getting The Deputy into organized sports.

Turns out we are a house of definite opinions about this. I presumed our guy would follow the same kind of sports timeline I had. Slight. Sparse. I was but a street urchin, selling matches for shillings with my fingerless gloves and newsboy hat. I had no time for sports. Also I had the eyesight of a starfish from the Marinas Trench. Me and sports were at best Cold War pen pals. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I played on a team not made exclusively of neighbor kids. It was basketball. I made such an impression on the court that the coach forgot to play me in our final game. Yes, I’m still bitter. Yes, I’m older than the space shuttle program.


The Countess, however, comes from a family that booted the children outside as soon as they could crawl, and they sought out sports with wide arms and natural ability. She has enough letter jackets to represent the entire alphabet and more medals than the inner ring of the Pentagon. We started talking about getting our son into sports before he was born, just to establish our notions. For her, football is right out. Instead, she said, what about wrestling? I immediately thought of the Four Horsemen. You did too? High five! We’re both old!

As a teen, she helped manage the Asheville High wrestling team. She knows this sport inside out. I was able to get her interested in watching UFC by pointing out how fundamental wrestling was to the most successful fighters. She locked in on that. So I wasn’t surprised she mentioned it for our guy. What surprised me was how early he could get started. A local group of wrestlers and coaches hold classes that accommodate four-year-olds. She volunteered to sign him up and take him. In fact, I think she only told me about it in case I had any objections. I didn’t, as long as, you know, they waited until he was six before they taught him the Rock Bottom.

He’s only attended a few classes, but it’s a lot to adjust to. The coaches aren’t babysitting the younger kids; they’re expected to learn the sport. The younger guys practice together. They’ve learned single-leg catches and double-leg takedowns. They know how to grab ankles and roll a flattened opponent onto his shoulders. Or hers. There’s at least one girl in the group, so he can see anyone join in. They take turns running moves, and that’s where we found our first hitch.

Our guy is used to pretending to roughhouse at home. It’s understood that we don’t go full bore. The tackler goes easy. But in the wrestling group, they pounce for real. They throw for real. He has to adjust to this new plateau of interaction. He has to learn how to use his full strength and maneuver someone. It’s a big change from, say, the rules of a bouncy house. He has to learn to compete.

There were tears of confusion and frustration. Of course there were. We pulled him aside and hugged it out and underscored what the coaches asked of him, using our tiny tribe’s specific terms and analogies. It’s just like when Splinter trains the Turtles, we said. They spar. They get clobbered sometimes. They get up and try again. They learn.

So will he. He might move on to another sport before summer. Maybe even before spring. Just as long as he’s active and enthusiastic, two qualities which come pretty natural for a four-year-old. Unlike, say, getting his Batcape down from the ceiling fan.