In a small digression from the usual arts stuff, I competed in a national freestyle wrestling comp a few weeks back. Had four matches and won three (two by points and one by pin), which was enough to snag me the silver medal.
I’ve been wrestling for close to a decade and it’s been an insane slog the whole time. The guys who do this sport combine elite physicality with pinpoint technical brilliance and a simply stunning work ethic. I lost dozens of matches in the most humiliating manner possible over years before I started to put any of this together. I still pale in comparison to the top guys in Australia, but it’s an honor to have progressed to the level where I get to compete against them.
Wrestling has become pretty central to my sense of self. The fact that it’s so difficult, so constantly humbling, such a slow grind of progression, at the very least it keeps my ego in check in a massive way. The people I train with in Club ACT are some of the finest people I’ve ever met, it’s truly a sport that demands and refines character.
It’s also the FUNNEST thing I ever do. When I wrestle, there’s no space in my head for anything else, it’s the only time in my life that’s like that. Wrestling someone is such an uncut dose of reality- ‘here is how you stack up next to this other person’s mind and body’- that even when I get totally destroyed there’s a euphoria that goes beyond just the obvious endorphin release.
This silver medal may be the best I ever do at the competition level. There’s a HUGE gap in ability between myself and the guy who beat me for the gold. Still, at one pint it would have seemed impossible for me to have done this well, so let’s see.
I can’t talk about my wrestling without highlighting two people in particular. Pete Sutton is the best strength and conditioning mind in the the ACT (as well as a phenomenal combat athlete) and I’m absurdly lucky to have him as a friend and mentor. He is the primary reason that, at the age of 31, I’m able to compete at a high level in one of the most physically demanding sports in the world.
Above all, I’d like to thank Coach, known to his family as Witold Rejlich. The most inspiring figure in my life, Coach is not only the best teacher of wrestling this country has, but the most inclusive and nurturing presence I’ve ever come across in any sphere of my life. He put time into me when there was NO indication that it would pay off. That’s why, although I wrestle for myself, I compete for Coach.