Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Iowa Pee Wee State Wrestling Tournament, 2011

“Once you’ve wrestled,
everything else in life is easy”

- Dan Gable

There is so much truth in the above quote. No, I’ve never wrestled. And neither has Jason. No, the closest I've come to wrestling experience is my brothers who wrestled, and my dad who was a referee. But watching our sons, Gabe, age 7, and Cooper, age 5, wrestle has shown both Jason and I that there is so much to be learned through the sport. There are life lessons to be gained through both the victories and defeats. There’s self-control, pride, hard work ethic, integrity, endurance. And there’s character to be built.

This past weekend, as Gabe and Cooper wrestled at the Iowa Super Pee Wee State Wrestling Tournament, I saw their strength of character shine through in so many ways. I saw the boys willingly shake hands with their opponents through their wins and losses. And I saw both boys take their wins with quiet humbleness, and their losses as a challenge to go out and win the next match.

Yes, even if wrestling is not your favorite sport to watch, you can’t help but appreciate the character built through every hard-fought match. And this past weekend was filled with hard-fought matches for our boys!

We really had no expectations going into the tourney except one: for the boys to do their best. That's always our one and only expectation with any sport they compete in. All we ask is that if they're going to do something, they do it to their best ability.

The weekend started on Saturday, with Cooper wrestling in the Kindergarten 42-pound bracket. This is Cooper’s first year of wrestling, and state was his sixth tournament ever. While the other tournaments Cooper has competed in have been relatively small tourneys where Cooper had 4-man round robin brackets, which means he would wrestle three matches per tournament, state was completely different. It's kind of a BIG deal...

{Look at all these boys getting ready to compete. The arena was packed!}

Cooper was placed in a 32-man bracket. With several first-round byes, Cooper was up against 24 other wrestlers all vying for a spot on the podium at the end of the day.

Cooper had a first-round bye, then ended up winning his next two matches both by very close margins. The first match was back and forth, and ended up tied at the end of the third period, placing him into overtime. Cooper managed to get the first take down to win the match. The next was also a very close match, where Cooper ended up scoring two points for the win with seconds left on the clock. It’s really hard to describe how emotionally draining it is watching your son out there on the mat. And the close matches are ten times worse!

{Cooper looking quite serious on the mat.}

But after two close wins, Cooper was in the semi-finals! He then lost his next match to the eventual state champion, but not without a fight. And following his next match where he got another win, Cooper was in the top four, wrestling his final match to determine who would win third place.

Cooper ended up losing his final match, but had nothing to feel bad about. He wrestled five tough matches, made his way into the top four out of 24 wrestlers, and got a fourth place state medal! In addition to placing at state, Cooper finished the 2010-2011 season with a record of 16 wins, 4 losses, and never got pinned. Pretty good for a kindergartner who was scared to even compete in a tournament until December! Click here to read about Cooper’s start to wrestling and very first tournament win.

{Cooper with his medal.}

{On the winner's podium, 4th place!}

One down, one to go.

Big brother Gabe wrestled on Sunday. This is the only Sunday tournament we’ve ever participated in because we normally don’t miss church for sporting events. But since Gabe was in the second grade division this year and they wrestled on Sunday, we made an exception since state is the culmination of all the hard work from throughout the season.

Gabe has wrested at state before as a kindergartner, but only had a few meets under his belt before he competed and was eliminated after two losses. Last year Gabe had planned on competing at state, but broke his arm only weeks before and was in a cast. After much waiting, Gabe finally had his second chance at competing at state.

He was placed in a 32-man bracket in the 58 pound weight class. But as with Cooper’s bracket the day before, there were several first-round byes, actually making it 22 boys in the bracket.
Gabe’s first match, similar to his brother’s the day before, was way too close for mom’s comfort! It came down to the final seconds of the match, and Gabe ended up scoring to get the win, 6 to 5! Yes, he won by one point! Talk about almost sending his mom to the emergency room with a heart-attack! Yikes!

The next two matches, Gabe won handily. He got a pin the second match, and won by technical fall, 15 to 0, in the third match, which is where the match is stopped after you score 15 points on your opponent.
Gabe was pumped!

Three wins, and now he’s in the semi-finals! He understood that if he got two more wins, he would be the state champion. Only two wins away, which I believe is one reason the next match came as such a hard loss to him.

Yes, he did lose.

Gabe lost that fourth match to last year’s state champion, and the eventual state champ again this year. And to make matters worse, Gabe got pinned. Gabe had set a goal at the beginning of the year to never get pinned, so this was a very hard loss.

{This photo shows a bit of how upset Gabe was as he is surrounded by his coaches...}

It took all I had to hold back the tears as I watched him get off the mat, red-faced and trying with all his might not to cry. He was devastated! And so the character building begins.

Because as much as we desire for our kids to win, they’re not always going to. There’s always going to be someone better out there, someone with just a little more experience or a little more talent or skill. We can’t win them all.

And after such a loss, there’s a choice to be made. We can either give up, throw in the towel and be defeated. Or we can choose to have strength of heart and come back with all we have for our next match. And I am proud to say that Gabe did the latter.

Gabe’s next match was wrestling for third place. The two were so evenly paired. Much of the match went without score. Then they each managed to score two. And by the end of the third period, with the score tied two to two, Gabe’s opponent managed to work his way around Gabe in the final seconds of the match and score another two to end the match. Again, Gabe was faced with defeat. And another hard loss.

{Gabe shaking hands with the opponent's coaches after a loss.}

But again, he came back to his final match determined to give it his all. And this time, it was enough.
He did win that last match, 7 to 4, and earned 5th place on the state podium. And he earned the right to be proud of his strength of heart. Because when it would have been so easy to give up, he kept going. And with that, Gabe’s season ended with a record of 22 wins, 5 losses.

{Gabe, on the podium in 5th place.}

It’s funny because the boys don’t even understand what they’ve accomplished. For two boys used to wrestling in 4-man brackets where they’ve usually managed to take home first place, 4th and 5th place don’t seem like much. Maybe someday they’ll understand that fourth and fifth place out of 24 and 22 boys IS an accomplishment. But for now, Gabe is already talking about what he needs to work on to be first next year. What can I say, the boy has tenacity!

And they have both obtained valuable skills from hard wins and even harder losses that will take them places in life. They’ve both become boys of character. And of that, I couldn’t be more proud!


Valerie and Jeff said...

WOW! Way to go boys! I am trying to type this blurry eyed from Gabe's story ... oh that hurts so much to read and brought tears! ... but I'm glad that he wrestled through and came out on top in the end!

We had a similar situation with hockey in WI a couple of weeks ago ... oh it hurt to endure! It is so hard to watch our boys struggle through the hard stuff isn't it?! Sounds like a wonderful weekend and a great year! Yay!

Half Gaelic, Half Garlic! said...


I could so identify with this post Angie! My Dad was a state champion wrestler in high school and college and went on to coach wrestling the rest of his life. My Mom, sister and I sat through many nailbiting matches!

I love that Dan Gable quote and you are right..... there is so much more to this sport than meets the eye.

These pictures are fantastic and the boys look so super cute with their medals. They both look like winners to me:)



Tina Fisher said...

I think I teared up with those photos of Gabe. How sweet is he?!

Cooper is just a doll too! You have beautiful kids Angie...inside and out! :)

You & your husband are wonderful parents...quite evident in those photos and your text!

Kim said...

That really is awesome. And I teared up at Gabe's photos too :(

Half Gaelic, Half Garlic! said...

I saw your second comment. Unfortunately, I don't have brothers, so my Dad never got his wrestler.... but my sister and I knew everything about the sport and we were team managers:) My Dad went to the University of Maryland. He had two nephews that followed in his footsteps in his passion for this sport. They both landed at The Naval Academy. I beileve one of them was a National Champ when he was a senior at the academy. He them married his coach's daugheter:) Our entire family was really into wrestling. The year my cousin one states in Hershey, PA.... it came down to the last second and my Aunt was so nervous and excited for him she peed her pants......LOL.... she didn;t even care because he won. He had made it to states three years in a row and always lost in the semi finals..... His dad, my uncle was also a coach.... his coach, so it was such a special win. He had his Dad right there with him in the corner of the mat when the final buzzer rang and his hand went up in the air.

Sounds like you will have many years of fun ahead cheering the boys on......enjoy!!



Half Gaelic, Half Garlic! said...

Just reread my comment.... OH BOY, lots of grammatical errors! Sorry....was in a hurry.

Anonymous said...

For crying out loud Angie, I am a blubbering mess over here! That picture of Gabe just broke my heart. He has so much heart! The way kids handle the losses makes their character grow so much more but as the mom it's so hard to see your child hurting.

I don't think it would be more possible to be more proud of your boys!!

Football and Fried Rice said...

What handsome boys! None of our kids wrestle, but we love to watch it! We have a good friend who wrestled under Gable!

Sharon said...

Ummmm, WOW! Way to go boys! And yes, I'm another teary eyed commenter.

Sophia said...

I was there! :) My son is a wrestler (1st grade). Isn't wrestling exciting and nerve racking at the same time!?