Talk about high adventure and wonderful entertainment. Grannie Annie and I attended the Nebraska High School State Wrestling meet last week. It was held at the Qwest Center, Omaha's modern high-class event center. It was also our first State wrestling tournament, a "had to go" attendance to watch our grandson, T. J. Monzon take on his chosen sports ultimate challenge.
For those of you who have never attended the INSSA High School Championship Wrestling Meet, perhaps you don't know what you are missing. Along with T.J's mother and sister we entered, had our packages inspected, wound through the maze and found our assigned seats. Surrounded by Millard West fans I happily discovered that we also had a great view of the more familiar to me Class D wrestling mats. The first clue that this was going to be a class act was when the audience rose to pay respect to our flag as the National Anthem was played. Not a soul moved, hats off, hands over their hearts, we patriotic mid-westerners do it well!
Exactly on time the contests started with all 10 mats on the floor in action. A superbly rendered program, along with a good PA system helped us fans keep track of the young men down there on the floor wrestling their hearts out. Each contest had its own scoreboard showing period; they do three, time to go, two long minutes each, and points awarded in real time. Points are awarded based on control of the opponent and a pin, forcing the other guys both shoulder blades to the mat at the same time erases the points and denotes victory. Click, click, click the contests followed one another with precision, an extremely well run tournament.
In high school I played football and ran track. Each is physically demanding but I didn't know tough until I participated in the sport of wrestling in college. Going man-o-man-o those six minutes was the most physically demanding thing that I've ever done in my life. Even the daily practice sessions are tough as we figured on losing a full four pounds body weight each evening. Incidentally my favorite practice partner was Gregory Boyington Jr., the son of Pappy Boyington of Baa Baa Blacksheep World War II fame. Before moving to Omaha, T.J.'s favorite practice partner was Clayton Korus who also participated at State for McCook. In my opinion the second most physically demanding sport is competitive swimming but somehow football and basketball seem to garner all the glory. Go figure!
In the Class A division 16 young men competed in T.J's 119 pound class. Proudly we noted that he was the only freshman and the first freshman, ever, to qualify for State from Millard West High School.
T.J. competed well but lost his first contest, on points, to a junior from Omaha Benson. In the second contest, next day, he was pitted against another junior, this time from Lincoln Northeast, and was leading in points with about 30 seconds to go in the third period but suffered sudden defeat from a pin. Bummer! Win or lose though we grandparents couldn't have been more proud! Few freshmen ever earn a chance to compete at State an accomplishment he can forever be proud.
Meanwhile right in front of us, the Class D contests were playing out. Two of the students that I am currently teaching to fly, Zack Riley, 119 pounds, from Southwest and Gus Petersen, from Cambridge were competing. Zack won one and lost two. Gus, 215 pounds, with a record of 34 wins and no losses made it into the quarterfinals before meeting his Waterloo. It made me proud to see that Mike Shoff, 285 pounds from Cambridge, did win the gold.
It is quite a study in human nature to watch the contests play out down on the mat. Some young men wrestle with great finesse, honed from years of practice and some subscribe to the school of brute force and awkwardness. Some contest defensively and wait for a possible opening to pounce while others are aggressive throughout. The discipline of sound training, long practice to gain a firm foundation and an aggressive attitude seem to me to be the recipe for success.
American young men of course don't cry in public but I did spot a few tears from young athletes that had just been bested.
Others stoically accepted victory or defeat at least while on the mat under the gaze of the crowd. The most fun to watch though were the ones who shouted, leaped and fist pumped for joy when the decision in their favor was announced.
I may have been a little prejudiced but somehow I just had to cheer for the young farm kids and rangy cowboys representing the smaller Class D high schools. Kids from Medicine Valley at Curtis, Southwest Indianola/Bartley, St. Pats North Platte, Dundy County-Stratton, Arapahoe, Perkins County at Grant, Eustis-Farnam, I identified with them all. I even cheered on the wrestlers from North Platte as long as they weren't competing against the kids from Millard West.
We felt a little guilty not watching the McCook kids in action with the Class B schools which ran concurrently with the Class C division.
Somehow three hours straight adrenalin-pumping wrestling action at a time was about all we wanted each day so we skipped the B and C action although at $7 a ticket for each session I thought eminently reasonable. McCook can be proud of their team, especially Skyler Kalinski who won the third place medal.
So there you have it -- great entertainment at a very reasonable price. We will be there next year cheering a favorite grandson on at the next state meet.
It is well worth the trip and I'd urge you dear readers to go and enjoy the good clean venue. Those young men with courage, dedication and discipline are our future and deserve all the support we can give them.
That is the way I saw it. Dick Trail