If you haven’t already read Chapter One you can read that here! A Wrestler’s Journey: Life, Wrestling and the Pursuit of Happiness; Chapter One.
Chapter 2: It’s all Fun and Games…
Greg woke up on his own this morning. He had set an alarm with his clock to get up at 5am. He normally got up at 6am to eat and get ready for school But Greg got up to work out. Aiden had told Greg that he and his dad, Coach Bob, get up every morning and work out together. Greg had tried to get his dad to do it but he said no. Greg got up and jumped to his feet, he shuffled around in his wrestling stance for a few minutes, then dropped to the ground and did pushups. He even stuck his feet under his bed and tried to do some sit ups.
He had even found a video on his mom’s iPad of this guy jumping onto a wooden box, so he tried to do that by jumping onto his toy bin which he had flipped upside down. That got his Dad’s attention as he came running into the room to see what was going on. “Greg, it’s 5:15am buddy, your Mom and I are sleeping. Go back to bed!” Greg nodded and crawled back into bed, but by that point he was already too awake to fall back asleep. Greg decided to sneak downstairs. So, he walked out of his room and went down to his garage. He did some jumping jacks, moved in his stance again, and finally tried to do some pushups on his knuckles, he had seen that in another YouTube video.
When it came time to go to school Greg couldn’t get his mind off of wrestling. He even went as far as to tell his friend Kevin to let him mat return him again so he could go talk to Principal Joseph. It worked as he intended, he was escorted to the Principals Office. However, this time Principal Joseph wasn’t as excited to talk wrestling. “Greg, I thought we talked about keeping wrestling at wrestling practice…” He trailed off as Greg said that excited “Well I just figured if I got in trouble again we could talk wrestling, so I mat returned Kevin, not super hard, he didn’t even really hit the ground!” Principal Joseph shook his head “Greg, you can just ask to come down and talk if you wanted to, now I must call your parents since this is the second time you roughhoused with another kid.” Greg was upset but he understood, he didn’t think he’d get in too much trouble with Dad, but it wasn’t Dad that answered.
Greg’s Mom picked him up from school early, Greg was nervous because Dad usually picked him up and drove him to practice after stopping home to change and eat a snack. But Mom didn’t take him home. Mom took him to Grandmom’s house. When they pulled into the driveway Greg saw his Uncle Dave sitting outside. Uncle Dave was Mom’s older brother and had wrestled with Greg’s Dad in high school. At least that’s what Greg remembered; he didn’t see Uncle Dave much. Greg walked up to the porch and his mom spoke first, “Now Dave, I don’t want you to scare him too much, but you need to talk to Greg about why he can’t use wrestling to fight kids!” Greg didn’t like the way that sounded, this sounded like another lecture was coming, Coach Dan was enough for one lifetime.
Uncle Dave was a pretty serious guy, but he opened up talking with a laugh “Please, the kid is natural born fighter, he’s got a mix of you and his Dad in him, both of you have plenty of fight in you!” Greg was confused but he could see his Mom wasn’t pleased, all Greg could think of was that he was going to miss practice. “Listen Greg, I used to be a really good wrestler when I was in high school. Better than your Dad even, but I didn’t use wrestling for the right things. It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.”
Greg kind of understood, “Are you saying I shouldn’t wrestle Kevin at school?” Dave laughed, “Yes, in fact you shouldn’t wrestle anyone anywhere but on a wrestling mat. If you wrestle someone somewhere else there’s a chance they may get hurt.” Greg looked up at his Uncle intently. “Did you ever hurt anyone Uncle Dave?” Dave looked at Greg’s Mom, his Mom shook her head and mouthed “No” but Dave looked at Greg with an honest look. “Yeah, buddy I did, I was about to finish high school and go wrestle in college, but I wrestled this guy for fun at a friend’s house. I accidentally hurt him, I got in trouble and I couldn’t wrestle in college anymore, your Granddad made me stay home and work.” Greg didn’t really understand, but he could see that Uncle Dave was upset. Greg looked at his mom and said “I think I will just wrestle guys on the wrestling mat from now on. Speaking of which, can I go to practice now? I’m gonna be late!” Greg’s Mom laughed and said goodbye to her brother and drove Greg to practice.
Greg was thinking about what his Uncle had said. How he could hurt someone if he wrestled them outside of wrestling. This complicated the sport a bit for Greg. He thought wrestling was a lot of fun, he had been loving it up until he felt like he could accidentally hurt someone. It was all he could think about during practice.
He was doing all his drills when Coach Bob came up and pulled him aside. “Hey buddy, everything okay? You look off today.” Greg didn’t know what it meant to look off but he didn’t take it as a good thing. “I’m okay coach, just thinking about something my Uncle told me, that I might accidentally hurt someone wrestling.” Greg said and shrugged. Coach Bob looked at him a bit concerned but then smiled; “Well buddy, this is a sport, anyone can get hurt at any time. I could go for a walk and trip and fall, that’s why they call it an accident. Don’t ever be afraid to do something because something COULD go wrong, then you’d have to hide inside for the rest of your life!” Greg laughed at the idea of hiding in his house forever. He’d be so bored.
“Yeah, I guess that’s true…” Greg’s voice trailed off. “Anything else on your mind buddy?” Coach Bob looked around, no one seemed to care Greg wasn’t practicing, Greg’s Mom didn’t watch practice like Dad did. “Well, my dad said I’m not allowed to wrestle Aiden cause we goof off too much, but I had a lot of fun practicing with him.” Coach Bob nodded, “Uh huh, so that’s why you’ve been avoiding Aiden. He was scared you didn’t like him or something! But listen buddy, if you have fun with someone, practice with them, you’ll love the sport way more if you come to practice and get a lot out of it!” Greg smiled, “Can I practice with him now?” Coach Bob nodded and Greg ran over to ask Aiden to switch partners.
Greg was much happier after talking to Coach Bob. He and Aiden were laughing and having a great time right up until Coach Dan blew his whistle and told the kids to line up littlest to biggest. Aiden and Greg ran to the line and coaches helped them get in order. Coach Dan began another one of his notorious rambling speeches Greg had learned to zone out from.
But this one he listened to. Coach Dan explained that this weekend they would have their first matches. Greg smiled and raised his hand. “Is that like a game Coach Dan?” Coach Dan laughed, first time Greg had ever seen that happen. “Yes Greg, it is like a game, except we don’t PLAY wrestling. We just wrestle!” Coach Dan continue his rant, something about winning the league, needing to pin everyone, a bunch of stuff Greg didn’t even understand.
Greg didn’t really care, but then Coach Dan changed topics, “To get you guys ready for the match, we’re gonna do some live wrestling! You guys are gonna partner up and go at each other like you would in a real match!” Greg was excited, he thought this would be a ton of fun! he figured he’d ask Aiden to be his partner again. As he turned to talk to him Coach Bob grabbed Aiden and pulled him off the mat gently.
Greg could hear Coach Bob talking to him, “Okay buddy, just make sure that you don’t go too hard on anyone, and make it fun, work on some moves, but don’t make anyone feel bad.” Greg wasn’t sure what kind of pep talk that was, his Dad basically just yelled at him and told him he needs to go be mean whenever he played a football game.
But, Aiden and Greg were partners for the first live match they were doing. Aiden was fast, so fast Greg could barely react to his shots. Before Greg could blink it seemed Aiden was on top of him. Greg tried to stand up like his coaches had taught him but Aiden put him flat back on his belly. When Greg was finally able to drive himself back up Aiden flipped him onto his back with some weird arm move. Greg thought he had seen it in a YouTube video before, he’s pretty sure it was called a tilt.
When Greg fought to his belly Aiden put his hand on his back and started to push Greg to his feet. Greg turned away, which he knew was one point for him but Aiden was right back in and this time lifted Greg off the mat and slammed him back down. Coach Dan blew the whistle and ended the match. Greg was happy it was over, but then Coach Dan said they were going to do another one.
This time Greg was determined to try something at least. When Coach Dan blew the whistle to start Greg shot right in, Aiden proceeded to throw Greg to his back. Greg couldn’t believe how good Aiden was. How was someone his age this good already? Greg fought off his back and Aiden again pushed him to his feet, this time Greg got to his legs, he felt like Aiden had given up the position a bit easy. Greg drove Aiden down and Aiden fought to his belly. Greg got out to the side to work the half they had been practicing but he couldn’t get Aiden to budge. Coach Dan blew the whistle again and told the kids to start jogging.
As Aiden and Greg jogged together Greg had to ask Aiden how he got so good. “You’re amazing Aiden, how’d you get so good so fast!” Aiden smiled and laughed “I’m not that good yet, still got lots of work to do! But I work with my dad a lot! He teaches me all kinds of things and we have a lot of fun, I have a mat right in my house!” Greg thought it must be so cool to just have a wrestling mat in your house, he thought of all the 5am workouts he could do if he had a wrestling mat.
But then he had an awesome idea. “Do you think your dad would ever work with me too? Maybe we could partner up!” Aiden laughed, “Why don’t we ask him!” After practice Greg excitingly ran up to Coach Bob. “Coach Bob, Coach Bob, Coach Bob!!” he yelled as Coach Bob was talking to a couple parents. “Yes buddy? Hope Aiden didn’t make you upset, I told him to take it light.” Greg laughed, “Nope! I loved it, he’s amazing! He said you work with him, can I join in too!?” Greg couldn’t contain himself while he waited for Coach Bob to answer. “Sure buddy, but I have to talk to your parents first, but any time you want to come over and work with Aiden and me I’m happy to help!”
In the car ride home Greg was beaming cheek to cheek, his mom could tell he was happy. “Have a good practice buddy? Seems like you really love it!” Greg looked up at his mom, “It’s the best, wrestling is so awesome, Aiden is so good Mom, and his dad is gonna work with us…” Greg’s mom cut him off, “Aiden’s dad wants to work with you? I don’t know if we’re gonna be able to do that buddy.” Greg was confused, why couldn’t he work with Coach Bob. “What!? Why not!?” Greg yelled at his mom. “Because sweetie we don’t know him like that, we can’t just drop you off at his house.” Greg was upset now, it wasn’t fair, Coach Bob was awesome, and Aiden was his friend. But all his mom said to his protests was “We’ll talk to your Dad about it when we get home.” And then Mom went silent. Greg was nearly in tears out of frustration, but he kept it together until he could talk to Dad.
When they got home Greg didn’t even wait for Mom to open the door. He swung the door open and ran inside to find Dad. When he got inside he saw Dad watching TV. “Dad!! Guess what, Coach Bob said he’d take me and Aiden under his wing, can I start working out with him and Aiden at their house? They have a mat, it will be awesome!” Greg couldn’t contain his excitement.
His Dad looked up from the TV surprised, “Coach Bob wants to work with you? Why, you just started and haven’t even won a match yet…” Greg didn’t really understand what Dad meant, what does winning a match have to do with anything. Dad told Greg to go shower, they would talk about it after. He ran upstairs and his mom had the water running.
Before he went in he heard his parents arguing again. “Bob is one of the best wrestlers to ever come out of this area, he’s not gonna just do this for free.” His Dad yelled, his Mom yelled back “I don’t care about the money, I don’t even know the guy, now Greg wants to just go over his house?” Dad chimed back in a little bit softer this time, “Well, Aiden and Greg are friends. They have fun at practice but Greg doesn’t need fun, he needs to work hard.”
Greg felt uneasy, like Dad thought him and Aiden weren’t a good match. His Mom spoke again, “Aiden beat the crap out of Greg today, clearly something Bob taught him is working, if you really want Greg to be great, maybe this will help him?” His Dad didn’t speak for a few minutes, “I’ll make a little wager with Greg.” Greg didn’t know what a wager was, but he didn’t hear a “No” and he felt that was good. He got showered off and ran downstairs as soon as he was dressed.
“So, Dad! Can I practice with Coach Bob and Aiden!?” Greg yelled at his Dad, giddy to hear his answer. “Okay Greg, I have a little deal for you. You have three matches Saturday. If you win all three, you can train with Aiden and Coach Bob, but if you lose any, you can’t practice with Aiden at practice for the rest of the season. What do you say?” Greg thought about it, he had never wrestled any matches in his life but he felt maybe he could win all three. But if he lost any he’d never be allowed to practice with Aiden again, he didn’t like that idea.
But he really wanted to train with Coach Bob. “Deal! I’ll win all three matches and become awesome like Aiden!” Greg said with a big smile on his face. “Okay, you better win Greg, or the fun is over.” Greg went to bed excited but nervous. He had one more day of practice before his matches, he would ask Coach Bob for help to win all three matches.
When Greg got to practice, he felt like something was off. He was nervous, he had never really been like this at practice. His belly was in knots and he felt like he couldn’t walk. Coach Bob came up to him and asked him if he was okay. “You alright Greg? You look tense.” Greg calmed down when Coach Bob talked to him, “I think I’m just scared to lose tomorrow because if I lose any matches I can’t practice with Aiden ever again.”
Coach Bob looked confused, “And why’s that buddy?” Greg took a sip of water from his bottle, “My Dad made me a deal where if I win all three matches, I can workout with you and Aiden whenever I want, but if I lose any, ‘the fun stops.’” Bob looked at this 6-year-old with sad eyes. What kind of Dad makes that type of deal to prevent friends from practicing together.
Bob flashed back to when he was training in high school and his own dad had said to stay away from certain guys in case he wrestled them in season. This felt like how he felt than, unfair. “That’s a dumb deal buddy, but you’re more than capable of winning all three tomorrow, just use the technique you’ve learned!” Greg felt better after talking to Coach Bob. He had a good practice and got to bed early to get a good night’s rest before he would take to the mat for the first time in his career.
Greg woke up at 6am. His Dad was at his door yelling at him to get up and get ready to go “be a winner” Greg didn’t really care that it was so cold out when he left the house, he was too excited to care. When they got to the school for the match Greg jumped out of the car and ran towards the gym entrance. He ran into Aiden and Coach Bob.
He was so excited to see his friend. “Today’s the day, if I win every match we can train together!” Coach Bob laughed, “’When’ buddy. When you win ever match, don’t think in ifs.” Coach Bob always made Greg feel like he could do anything, he was always so positive. They walked in and all of Greg’s coaches and teammates were jogging together, Aiden and Greg got ready and joined in. Greg was beyond excited; this would be the start of something special. It was the next step in his journey. One he would reflect on for the rest of his life.