Sports Non-Fiction posted November 28, 2018

This work has reached the exceptional level
Based on a true story

Something to be Proud of

by Earl Corp

There are a lot of things I have done that I am proud of over my lifetime. I received my Eagle Scout Award when I was 15-years-old, I earned my Expert Infantry Badge the first and only time I went for it, and I was the very first descendant of my paternal line to graduate college.

Those are all examples of when things are going well, but to me it's more of a source of pride to be able to bounce back from the down times, it's easy to do well when things are going great. I have had quite a few times where I could have quit but I put my head down and plowed on through.

One of those times happened when I was in high school my junior year and it happened during a wrestling match. There wasn't a championship on the line and it wasn't my first or last high school match. It was a mid-season match against General McLane.

Some background first.

I was wrestling my first full campaign as the varsity heavy weight. To say it wasn't going well is probably an understatement. I had won my opening match then dropped every one after that. Immediately before Christmas vacation was the low in the valley. My mother had been in a very bad car wreck on my 16th birthday in September. We owned a general store and my parents worked out a deal with the school that I would run the store in the morning and attend school in the afternoon.

They were able to pull this off because I was attending vocational-technical school for masonry. This lasted through the first nine weeks, after that it was back to vo-tech. The problem was I was skipping a lot of school because I had lost interest. It was hard to go from working in the morning in the store to school in the afternoon. The day before the Christmas party, the school called my mom to let her know I was supposed to bring hamburger buns to the party and to make sure I came.

So, I went in to vo-tech with my hamburger buns like I was told to do. A kid from another school brought in a gym bag full of liquor, at least 10 bottles. I appropriated a bottle of Old Granddad and commenced to empty the fifth in record time. I got the bottle at 9 a.m. and by 9:45 it was gone.

I was soused to the gills and don't remember much from that day. All I know is I woke up strapped down to a gurney. That 45 minutes of fun cost me quite a bit. I'd just gotten my driver's license in September and now it was gone, the week before that was gone. I was told to come straight home because I was off of the wrestling team. My mother was very anti-alcohol and made sure I knew I was going to pay with blood sweat and tears. I was sentenced to Christmas vacation at hard labor.

This went on until vacation was over. When I returned to school I still had to face whatever the school was going to dish out. My conference with the vo-tech principal was going well, until I wouldn't name the kid who brought the gym bag full of booze to school.

Up until that point I was only going to be suspended three days. He nonchalantly asked while he was dialing the phone,

"By the way who brought the booze in?"

"I don't remember." That was the wrong answer.

He slammed the phone down. "What do you mean you don't remember?"

"That was two weeks ago, I don't remember much about that day."

He wasn't buying the amnesia act. He sat there sweating me for 45 more minutes, but I didn't snitch. I ended up with 10 days out of school.

My mom was pretty jubilant, I had received 10 more days at hard labor. But this was the turning point.

About a week into my suspension, a school board member came in the store and told my mother I could go back to the wrestling team after my suspension was up.

It seems double jeopardy applies to high school punishment. The vo-tech had suspended me for 10 days and my home school went along with it. That was the double jeopardy no, no; they either could kick me off of the wrestling team or suspend me 10 days but not both.

My first day back I was pulled out of practice into the hallway by the coach. The principal was there and he told me in no uncertain terms that he didn't like that I'd been able to slip through a loophole to get back on the team. I was told if I even farted in the lunch line I'd be bounced out of school so fast my head would spin.

They felt I should have enough honor not to have returned to the wrestling team. It wasn't about honor to me, I was 16-years-old, I wanted to wrestle. I had made a mistake and I did the time so now I should be allowed to wrestle.

The first match back was against one of our rivals. Their heavyweight hadn't gotten out of the first period so far that season. I was weighed in, dressed, and warmed up. When it came time for my match, the coach sent the 185 pounder out who proceeded to pin the kid in 19 seconds.

I don't know if the coach wanted me to respond negatively so he could kick me off the team, or hoped I'd quit on my own. But I let the incident slide.

The next match was the McLane match. Wrestling in the McLane gym was similar to wrestling at Three Rivers Stadium. The McLane fans were loud, rowdy, and boisterous. It was also senior night; the guy I was wrestling was an undefeated senior.

The match stayed close the whole way, none of our guys gave up pins. When it came down to the last two matches we needed 11 points for a team win. This was the closest we'd ever been to beating this team in the three years I wrestled.

The 185 pounder went out and pulled a five pointer from his guy, this meant in order for the team to win I had to pin my guy.

Usually I'd be nervous before a match. I was until the coach came to give me his words of wisdom and encouragement before I stepped on to the mat.

"Stay off of your back."

That did wonders for my stomach butterflies they dissipated as I became pissed. I went out and shook hands and waited for the referee to blow his whistle. Once the match started I was okay, no butterflies.

I was promptly taken down. But I didn't go to my back. I considered that a victory in itself. We finished the first period period with him winning 2-0. He was given the choice of being up or down, he chose up.

I got down on hands and knees and he got into the top position. The ref blew the whistle and it was on. I tried a reversal, halfway through I remembered an article I'd read in the paper about a neighbor who was also a wrestler, So and So turned a Craig Sankey reversal into a pin at the 2:09 mark. Not wanting that to happen to me I repositioned back to my knees.

The funny thing was he ended up off balance and out of position and I felt it. I reached behind me and hooked his elbow then rolled.

When I rolled, he followed. We ended up with him on his back and me on top.

I almost stood up and yelled. "Look I got him on his back."

But I didn't. Instead I sunk a reverse half nelson and gathered up his other arm. He was struggling hard; the ref was counting, and then BOOM it was over. The ref smacked the mat signifying a pin.

I got up to my feet quickly. They were booing me. I put my index finger in the air signaling we were number one and walked in a circle around my opponent, who was still laying there. But we had won the match! And it was on account of my pin!

Those of you who might not understand what I was feeling, let me put it in other words so you might. For a heavyweight to win a match in that fashion is similar to scoring the winning touchdown in football or cracking a home run with bases loaded in baseball.

As I said in the beginning, I've had many more instances of which I was proud of after this one. But this one time really turned me around in high school. I'd go on the next year to be 23-7 and a section champion, But I'd never have done it without the McLane match.

What I Am Proud Of and Why contest entry


I used the thing I'm most proud of in another story I Had to reach down in my bag of tricks for another one Don't hurt me too bad. Enjoy!
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