Sunday, November 21, 2021

Wrestling Tournament Frequently Asked Questions


With kids back at school and certain pandemic-related restrictions easing, lots of varsity sports are going again. If, like me, you suddenly have a kid on the high school wrestling team, and want to know what it’s like to attend a tournament, read on.

How much lead time will I have before the meet?

Your mileage may vary, but don’t expect a lot of notice. Not all kids wrestle in all tournaments, and you may receive so many emails with so much information you may struggle to process it all. If you ask your kid, she may or may not know, or might deliberately mislead you. These are teenagers we’re talking about, remember.

It’s easy enough to find the high school, but how do I locate the gym?

Good luck with that … it’s not like a high school mountain bike racing course that you can see from space. Google Maps could help, if the school is important enough to have nice little building outlines, but one large building (e.g., gym, auditorium) looks a lot like another. Probably you’ll have to walk laps around campus, ignoring advice from other would-be spectators who are likely even more lost than you.

Is it possible every single entrance will be locked?

Anything is possible during the pandemic, but more than likely there will be a single gate open somewhere, amidst many dozens of locked ones. Don’t worry, you probably won’t miss your kid’s first match. (Actually, you probably will. You should have left earlier.)

That dude who climbed the fence … was that smart?

Yes, you should have followed his example. He probably saw your kid’s first match.

Does attending an indoor event like this present a significant COVID-19 risk?

Of course! Half the people won’t have masks, and half of those who do will be wearing them around their chins, and it’s chockablock up in the bleachers and pretty much everywhere else. Also, your kid is huffing and puffing in her opponent’s face, and each kid faces anywhere from three to like, I dunno, ten opponents? She’s bringing that viral load home with her!

What is the riskiest thing about the tournament, from the COVID perspective?

That would be the unmasked coaches shouting instructions at their wrestlers at 130 dB to be heard over the ambient noise.

Is that worth the added COVID risk?

Of course not. There’s no way the wrestlers are paying attention, and if they haven’t started following their coaches’ advice after countless practices, they’re not going to suddenly start now. This is just the coach equivalent of backseat driving.

If I let my daughter join the wrestling team and attend one of these meets, and she comes down with COVID, am I going to Hell?

Let’s look at the facts: most schools have wrestling teams; most teams attend tournaments like these; most of these tournaments are held indoors; and all kinds of families allow their children to participate. Thus, there’s nothing uniquely reckless about attending the meet. Think of it this way: if your kid went to play tennis at a public court, and was shot by some lunatic, would you think, “I never should have let her play tennis!”? No? Well, how is this any different? We’re in a pandemic and, despite vaccinations and (mostly) wearing masks, some people will get COVID and that’s just the way it is. So no, you’re probably not going to Hell (at least, not for this).

The meet is like nine hours long and my kid is only wrestling three matches. How will I know when it’s her turn?

If you keep an eye on the mats, you’ll see her wrestling, but by the time you get there you will have missed half of it. It’s better to keep your eyes glued to her the whole time, from across the gym. If you see her put on the anti-cauliflower ear protection, it is definitely GO time. Of course, you could be waiting hours. In fact, you will.

I plan to attend the tournament with my wife and other kid. Is it a good idea, from a COVID standpoint, to take shifts watching for the match while the others wait outside?

Yes, that’s a fine idea, though the way time stretches out in such situations, there’s bound to be a bit of resentment over perceived unequal surveillance duty.

I just saw my kid eating. Since nobody would eat right before a match, she must not be up for quite a while, so I could go for a walk or something … right?

Don’t be so sure. These kids don’t necessarily have any idea what’s going on either. I heard several kids, asked when they’re up, respond, “I have no idea.” I mean, think about it: you are completely obsessed with trying to make sense of the situation, because you’re an adult, but these teenagers are, as my mom used to put it when haranguing my brothers and me, “all over the place spaced-out BLAH!” Your kid’s mouth may very well be bulging with food when her coach says, “You’re up in five!”

I find it really nerve-racking trying to keep tabs on my kid at the meet. Could anything make this even more stressful?

Why, yes! They could have a whole other gym you didn’t know about, where other matches are going on! Meaning you can’t be sure you’re not missing her match simply because you don’t see her on one of the mats. The second gym means you have to keep track of her all day long!

If there are, in fact, two gym buildings where matches are being held, can I be reasonably confident my kid’s third match will be in the larger gym, given that her first two were?

I asked a member of the wrestling team this very question, and she replied, “You won’t know until you know.”

Are wrestlers commonly given to tautological utterances of this type?

I wouldn’t know … I have only one wrestler in my family and she’s new to the sport.

When I’m scanning the bleachers, the throngs of wrestlers, and the random spectators distributed throughout the gym, because I’m looking for the only kid whose whereabouts interest me (i.e., mine), I feel like I’m playing some kind of real-world “Where’s Waldo.” Is that a good analogy?

No, “Where’s Waldo” isn’t a good analogy because Waldo always wears the same red-and-white cap, red-and-white striped shirt, and round glasses—a combination few other wrestlers would be sporting. Your kid, meanwhile, is wearing the same colors as the rest of her team, which is the same color scheme as several other teams. Meanwhile, for some reason these wrestling teams don’t congregate at these events … they’re widely distributed throughout the building(s) so you can’t just look for your home team. Another thing: Waldo stays put, whereas these wrestlers are always on the move, constantly dipping and diving and disappearing, so it’s like a shell game from hell. You’ll experience extreme disorientation, like when you were at the public swimming pool a decade ago, trying to keep an eye on both your children as they sprinted off in different directions, one into the water and another vanishing into the crowd. So it’s less like “Where’s Waldo” and more like being trapped in a kaleidoscope.

Is it true that “Where’s Waldo” started in the UK, where his name is Wally, and that his name was changed to Waldo for the American market, Charlie for the French, and Walter for the German?

Why yes, that’s absolutely true!

Is it normal for a wrestler to have a doppelgänger who continually throws her parents off the scent?

I think you can pretty much count on that … I’m pretty sure it’s a corollary of Murphy’s Law. In my case, my kid’s doppelgänger—same braided hair, same fair skin—happens to be a dude. Only the bulging biceps gave him away, which is less helpful than you might think because the whole experience is so overwhelming, especially if your eyesight is poor and the air is permeated with sweat, like a rank mist, so everything is a blur.

During my daughter’s match, her rival totally had her in a hammerlock, which is apparently allowed(!). I asked my daughter later if that hurt, and she insisted it didn’t. She went on to say, unbidden, that her rival was “nice!” Is my kid out of her mind?

You might want to get her checked out … that could be a symptom of a concussion.

If my kid tells me her next match isn’t for at least an hour and encourages me to go take a walk, can I step out for thirty minutes without having to worry about missing anything?

No. If you step out for thirty minutes, you will miss her match … meaning you just waited around for two-plus hours for nothing. Just go home at that point.

Are you speaking hypothetically, or did this actually happen to you?

I’d rather not talk about it.

Has it ever occurred to you that the wrestling tournament might just be an elaborate psychological experiment?

God yes.

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