November 23, 2005
Five weeks ago a group of 22 first and second graders stepped onto the Hood River Valley High School wrestling mats for the annual Community Education wrestling program.
During their two evening practices a week, the youngsters learned the fundamental rules, positions and moves of the sport, along with basic tumbling forms like cartweels and rolls.
Keeping order each evening was a staff of volunteer coaches who all happened to be former HRVHS wrestlers.
On Saturday morning, the young grapplers put their newly acquired skills to the test in a season-ending mini-tournament with the crew from The Dalles Community Education.
With fans and families surrounding the mat on all sides, the HRVHS upper gym was converted, for a couple hours at least, into the center of the universe for the wrestlers and their parents.
As any wrestler-mom can verify, watching a child’s first match is a gripping and heartfelt few minutes. And, as any young wrestler can verify, matches are both thrilling and nerve-racking.
Save for a few teary breakdowns on the mat, the event was full of smiles and positive energy.
The kids showed effort and courage uncharacteristic for first and second graders. The hyper-goof-ball, rascal mentality the coaches were challenged with every practice disappeared on Saturday, and for the first time in their lives, the kids experienced the sensation of one-on-one, scored, live wrestling in front of an audience.
Although matches were scored, every kid won and both wrestlers’ hands were raised after matches. The focus of the tournament was not Hood River versus The Dalles; the focus was on sharing the fun.