Sunday, August 2, 2015

My Last Wrestling Match

Rock Island, May 1975

When I was in junior high in the early 1970s, I hated sports, but my parents wouldn't believe me.  They demanded, "Boys like sports.  You must sign up for a sport."  Anything involving projectiles being hurled at me was out of the question, of course.  I liked to watch the swimming team, but not splashing around in water.

What about wrestling, my brother's favorite sport?  Hardbodied boys in revealing singlets grabbing, pawing, and laying atop each other?  And then stripping down in the locker room afterwards?  It sounded perfect!

Besides, I had been taking judo lessons for two years, so I knew all about throwing, falling, and pinning.

I did ok.  I actually won a few matches, and I grew confident enough to challenge the Estonian Wrestling Brothers, George and Kristjan.

Then came a tournament in the spring of ninth grade, at Centennial Hall, a big fieldhouse across the street from Augustana College.  My opponent, a beautifully muscled African-American boy named Walter, came from a tough school in Peoria, but I still managed to pin him with one arm behind his head and the other between his legs. As Walter flailed about, trying to break, his crotch became noticeably thicker and harder, until my arm seemed to be pressing against a coke bottle.

Shocked, I jerked away, giving Walter an opening to break. He threw me over and lay atop my spread legs, wrapping his arms around my shoulders as if in embrace.  He was blatantly grinding our crotches together, his face oddly stoic, as if he didn't care that he would soon be displaying a baseball bat to two hundred people.

Walter wanted a boy, not a girl! He had escaped the "discovery of girls" that the adults were always going on about.  He had escaped the mind-numbing chant of "what girl do you like?  what girl?  what girl?  what girl?" Maybe later we would go out on a date, and hug and kiss!   I was flushed with exhilaration.

When the referee shouted the win, we rose shakily and shook hands, and Walter disappeared  -- into the congratulating arms of  a girl! She kissed him, her thin pale arms wrapped around his waist. His body, pressing against me just a few minutes ago, was now pressing against her!

I felt my stomach drop.

I shrugged off the coach's hand-on-shoulder condolence and walked through the arena, out into the foyer, and then to the sidewalk outside. I stopped at the box office and looked at the posters of upcoming events – a jazz festival, a comedian, a Quad Cities Symphony concert. I was vaguely aware that Dad had jumped up from his seat in the bleachers and followed me out.

“It’s not over yet,” he said. “You’ve got another match coming up.”

Traffic was moving briskly on 7th Avenue, which followed the course of the Mississippi west-ward into Downtown. Across the street, three college boys with books were climbing the steep granite steps toward Augustana’s Old Main. I reflected that none of them had the slightest idea what had just happened.
“I don’t feel very good,” I said. “My stomach feels funny.”

Dad retrieved Kenny, and we went home. I got into my pajamas, and lay on the couch and watched tv. Flipping the channels, I happened upon The Magic Sword, which for some reason was always broadcast on Saturday afternoons: Sir George (Gary Lockwood), a young, wide-eyed knight in chain mail and a Prince Valiant haircut was questing to rescue a plump princess from a gay-vague sorcerer, who planned to feed her to his pet dragon.

Suddenly Darry’s head appeared at the picture window. “Aw, I wanted to surprise you,” he said as Mom let him in. He shoved my legs aside so he could sit down, and handed me a Schneider's Drug Store bag containing three comic books. “Your brother told me you got your head broken in at your wrestling tournament.”

“I’m just sick to my stomach. But thanks for the comics."

“You do look kinda green! But I would get sick, too, if I had to jump around in those silly leotards. What ya watchin’?”

The Magic Sword. I  just turned it on.”


Darry laughed. “I can see you’re turned on. That’s a foxy fairy princess, huh?”
Puzzled, I looked up at the screen. Sir George  was strung up in a courtyard, his shirt ripped off, his muscles taut and hard and gleaming. There was also a “foxy fairy princess” strung up on the other side of the courtyard,  awaiting the dragon. But who could possibly give her a second glance?

I wanted to nudge Darry and point out the knight. I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and shake him and yell “Wake up! Open your eyes!” But boys nudged each other about girls, only and always, and there was a girl waiting at the end of every tournament. I had to ignore – or pretend to ignore – the most beautiful man in the world.

“Yeah, she’s far out,” I said, hating myself, and hating Darry for making me say it.

See also: Turkish Oil Wrestling ; and Arabic and Class Rings.

No comments:

Post a Comment