I was all prepared to write about the great wrestling and of course the intense Iowa atmosphere the fans exhibited last weekend at the National Duals, until I met a certain young wrestler waiting with his mom to get back home from Iowa.
We were “stranded” somewhat in Iowa due to a snow and ice storm but the Good Lord does tend to work in mysterious ways and I do believe, He does truly have a plan.
As I sat in the airport, somewhat upset I was late getting home and all that went with that, the mother of a young boy about 10 years old was sitting behind me and leaned over and asked if I was a wrestling coach. She had overheard me talking on my phone about the Duals and wanted to ask a few questions. When I explained I was simple a mere referee and not a coach, instead of looking disappointed, she smiled softly and said her son was a wrestler and was disappointed they didn’t get to see the Duals, as they were visiting family in Iowa. She went on to explain that while her son had wrestled for several years, and he had yet to win a match but he was very enthusiastic about the sport. I told her that there is more to life than winning a wrestling match and she gently smiled and she said “Oh yes I agree and Billy doesn’t mind at all he just loves to be with his friends.”
I looked behind me and there sat a smiling, cheerful 10 year old boy, that just so happened to have Down Syndrome. His mom introduced us, and I will tell you that I have never met a happier young man. I introduced myself and he shook my hand with extreme gusto.
I asked him his favorite takedown, he said he wasn’t sure but his mom said he was a “single leg man, just like his dad was”. He asked me point blank if I knew Dan Gable. I told him as a matter of fact, that I had just been to the new Dan Gable Museum and you would have thought I told him I had met the Emperor of the World! He was gushing and wanted to know all about it. I told him I had actually taken pictures of many of the exhibits so we sat there together and I scrolled down through each and every one, describing each and every one in great detail. If he asked one question, he asked a thousand! His questions were clear and to the point; wanting to know everything I saw, touched and heard.
As we chatted and looked at the pictures, we talked about wrestling and his favorite moves and then out of the blue, he wanted to know all about what it is like to be a referee. I started to share a little what is like and then he looked at me in the eye very serious and
said : “You know, coaches really do know what’s best right?” I looked at him and then he began to giggle. That little matrat laughed because he knew he had got me!
Interspersed between topics, he always went back to talking about Gable, sort of like telling me, “Hey..it’s ok to talk about wrestling, but don’t forget the main topic here..Gable!” LOL
Before I knew it, it was finally time to board the plane. This young man, with a smile that could very well bring world peace, stood and put his hand out to shake goodbye. I looked at him and told him I wanted more than a simple handshake from this wrestler! He stepped in and hugged me appropriately…in a wrestling bearhug! For a second I thought he might suplay me!
As I started to walk away, his mom shook my hand and gave me a quick hug as well and thanked me for spending time with him. I told her through my red eyes that it was truly my pleasure to have spent the time with her favorite wrestler.
As I sat on the plane ride home, I thought about this young wrestler and his positive outlook. Not once did he talk about losing, or getting a bad call or anything, it was all 100% positive. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone was that way?
That young wrestler may not win by points, but if winning was based on the size of his heart, he would stand tall on the podium with a shiny gold medal draped around his neck.
Oh yeah, this was suppose to be about the National Duals…they were fine.
“A hero is someone we can admire without apology.”
For more information on Down Syndrome, please visit: http://www.ndss.org/
About the author, Fredrick Feeney: About Frederick Feeney: With 25 years experience, Fred is a respected wrestling referee at both the high school and collegelevels. He is a member of the CDWOA, NWOA and is the President and Founder of the MSWOA. Fred also was a FILA official until he retired from FS/GR in 2007. He is a certified OHSAA wrestling instructor and has taught 2 classes a year for the past 15 years. He is a moderator on several popular wrestling discussion forums, and has written numerous papers and articles on the mechanics of officiating as well as the personal inside stories as to what officiating is really about. 5 states have invited Fred to present his insightful mechanics presentation, “Are You a Duck?” to their wrestling officials. Fred’s in-depth experience encompasses both scholastic and collegiate levels, having worked the prestigious NWCA National Duals, The Midlands, The Cliff Keene Las Vegas Tournament, plus many top level D1 dual matches. Fred works primarily the Big Ten Conference, along with M.A.C., O.A.C., and G.L.I.A.C. matches. His post season work has included 10 OHSAA State Wrestling Tournaments, the Senior Nationals, several NAIA Nationals, 14 NCAA Division III Championships and 4 NCAA II Championship finals. Fred and his wife reside in Dublin, Ohio.