My favorite sports are generally the big ones. Football, baseball, hockey, basketball. I enjoy all sports, but in terms of my favorites, those are them.
However, one sport that I feel is the most underrated, and I guess is underrated by myself at times as well, is the sport of wrestling.
Outside of some states in the Midwest, wrestling is typically an afterthought in most sports fans’ minds in the winter season. Hockey and basketball typically dominate the headlines, while wrestling tends to sneak in the inside pages except for the state tournaments, which even still sometimes miss the front page.
I’ve never wrestled before, the only experience with the sport that I have is through covering it in my career and seeing it from a far when I was in high school. When thinking about the sport, the first thing that jumps out to me is the hard work that it entails.
Every sport is challenging, and every athlete works hard to perform at a high level. If you ask me though, there is no sport as grueling as wrestling in terms of preparation.
Wrestling is the one sport where you need to be strong in every physical area to have success. Sure, the more well-rounded you are physically will give you an advantage in any sport, but wresting is the one sport where you need to be well-rounded in order to even step foot on the mat.
Whether it’s building strength, gaining speed, conditioning your cardio, learning the technique, being tough enough to endure the beating of each practice and match, it takes an incredible amount of dedication and work just to be competitive. Not many people outside of the sport truly appreciate the amount of work that it takes to be a wrestler, and even as I’m writing this I’ll admit that I do not give grapplers enough credit for what they go through.
The next thing that I enjoy about wrestling, well, I respect about wrestling, is the sportsmanship.
To be blunt, wrestling is essentially fighting without throwing punches or kicks. Obviously, it’s a sport, obviously it is far more complex than just that, but at the end of the day that is not a too-far-off comparison.
It would be easy for anyone, especially a high schooler, to demonstrate poor sportsmanship in the sport. You are going up against another grappler, one on one, and are fighting in a sense. Losing always stings, especially when considering all the work that you put in, and it also stings knowing that another person beat you … there is no one else to blame, there is no where else to look. If you come up short in a wrestling match, you are the reason you lost. (Note: In team matches, each grappler’s score is combined for a final tally, so this doesn’t apply in terms of a team score).
However, each match begins and finishes the same way: with a handshake.
This is something that has always amazed me about wrestling … the institutionalized sportsmanship.
Like I said, wrestling seems like it would be the toughest sport to accept defeat in … however, some of the best sportsmanship I have ever seen comes from the sport. Somehow, wrestling coaches almost universally teach kids the value of sportsmanship with success. It starts from the youth level and carries all the way through the collegiate and Olympic level … it is simply a sport that promotes respect between its athletes like no other.
In terms of what we see on the mat, wrestling is a science that takes years to become fluent in.
I can’t really get too far into the X’s and O’s since I never competed in the sport, but when you really zone in on a match, it is really incredible seeing the amount of detail that is in each move, position, guard, etc. During matches, coaches will walk their grapplers through what is going on … the amount of knowledge and quick thinking is impressive.
I have grown more interested in wrestling over the past few years and have learned a lot from my time around the sport … but still, I haven’t even scratched the surface compared to grapplers at even the elementary level. Wrestling not only requires an intense level of physical ability, but it also requires a high level of intelligence, quick thinking and responsiveness that very few sports do.
My favorite part about wrestling though has to be the community. Kind of like Rhode Island, the local wrestling community is small, but very tight knit.
It doesn’t matter if you are on the same team or competing against each other, most grapplers know one another, respect one another, and look forward to seeing each other when their teams cross paths. Of course, that all goes away once they strap on the head gear and walk on the mat, but off of it, the wrestling community is very close. That’s how it was when I was in Massachusetts and Maine as well, there is a great sense of unity within wrestling, and it is probably because it is one of the most overlooked sports.
I’d encourage anyone to check out a local wrestling match. Rhode Island has some great grapplers, and the sport in general has only continued to evolve in New England over the past few years. It is a great sport that deserves more credit than it gets.