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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Takedown and pin

Regular readers, long-suffering souls that you be, may recall this same handsome young man's photo in a post from last February that also included a video clip. Through an act of great self-discipline, I'm going to limit myself to no more than two posts, and only a later one with video, in which I will permit myself to brag on that same young man's wrestling during this season, at least through the district competition next month. (But If he advances from that meet, all bets are off, and I may blog about his achievements with uncontrolled euphoria.)

Bellaire High School wrestler Adam Dyer at Cypress Fairbanks High School wrestling meet, January 9, 2009

My sixteen-year-old son, Adam Jackson Dyer, is in his second season as a wrestler on Bellaire High School's varsity team. November, December, and January have been busy months in the 2008-2009 wrestling season, and my personal goal as a fan and supportive parent this year has been to make it to all of their matches — which partly explains my infrequent blogging lately. All of the matches so far are really just preparation for the "official" competition through the Texas University Interscholastic League in February: Wins and losses now do affect one's seeding for the district UIL meets, but they're mostly just for practice and "mat time." The entire Bellaire team is much improved this year, in large part thanks to the efforts of its coaches, Dr. Marcellars Mason and Coach Greg Menephee, and team captains including the incomparable Jonathan Eagleson, who's such a long-time and close friend of the Dyer family that he, like his older brother Christopher, is almost like a surrogate son/brother. And with their help and the further experience he's gotten so far this year, Adam has advanced considerably in skill and confidence as a competitive wrestler.

Although I'm trying to catch up, I still don't know enough about the sport to provide much insightful commentary. Here, though, are a series of photos from a dramatic meet this past Wednesday, January 14th, at which teams from St. John's and Bellaire visited Kinkaid.

Kinkaid and St. John's are both exclusive private schools with superb facilities and long traditions of both athletic and scholastic excellence. I gather that they're arch rivals of one another, so it was gratifying, and somewhat amusing, to hear each of them root for Bellaire's wrestlers against the other's. Adam had a good night against both opponents' in his 152-pound weight class, winning both matches with pins even though both of his opponents were solid wrestlers who obviously were highly motivated and had been well coached. These images, screen-captures from an HD video, can only give you a hint of the speed, power, and controlled violence in these matches.

The first screencap is mid-way through the second two-minute period against Adam's counterpart from St. John's — the first period having expired with each wrestler tied in points and neither showing a particular advantage over the other. In this shot, however, at 7:40:17 PM, Adam (on the left, in the singlet whose red stripes extend down his leg on both sides and with the gray shoes and green ankle band) has just managed to get the grasp he'd been seeking on his opponent's neck. (Note: Wrestlers make incredible faces and noises, most of which are evidence of concentration and effort, but some of which indeed are evidence of pain and frustration. I have yet to see a parent of a wrestler dash onto the mat to "save" his or her child, but I am thoroughly convinced that every parent watches every match with, proverbially and metaphorically, his/her heart in his/her throat, praying that no one will be injured and that the pain will soon end.) 


Below, at 7:40:18 PM (fractions of a second later), Adam (behind, facing camera) is beginning to twirl his opponent around to his right, still with that same headlock grip.


By 7:40:19 PM in the next screencap, below, Adam (right) is continuing the twirl, but beginning to exert twisting pressure too.


By 7:40:21 PM in the next screencap, below, Adam's opponent (right) has slowed the twirl with a strong plant of his left foot. Unfortunately for him, that becomes the pivot point for what's about to happen next.


Below, still at 7:40:21, Adam (in back, mostly hidden in shadow) has his opponent mid-flip onto his back. More than any other moment, this screencap tells the tale of this entire match. Note the full extension of Adam's left leg, from which he's launched this move.


And in the screencap below, at 7:40:22 PM, Adam's opponent has been taken down — cleanly, without injury, but in a hard twisting fall that could not help but knock a fair amount of wind from his lungs. Adam has already continued spinning around so that his body has ended up perpendicular to his opponent's as his opponent landed on his back:


Fractions of a second later — at 7:40:23 PM as measured by the camcorder from which these screencaps were taken — Adam (on top) is trying to turn this take-down into a pin. His opponent struggles valiantly, slamming his left foot to the mat, and next the right, wriggling like a fish, rolling hard from shoulder-blade to shoulder-blade to keep both from touching the mat and Adam from achieving even a moment of control. The opponent knows, surely, that he's in trouble, but he's not quite finished yet. If only Adam loses his grasp, or sneezes, or the second period expires — something ....


But Adam permits no escape, no reversal — at least not this time. The combination of physics, geometry, and through them, wrestling technique will have their inexorable way. By 7:40:25 PM — a mere eight seconds after this sequence of screencaps began — Adam (on top), as shown in the screencap below, is on the toes of both feet, with his knees off the mat, forming the widest possible triangle to concentrate all of his weight and force and will-power chest-to-chest on his opponent. His opponent is short of breath, without leverage, without ready means to escape the hold Adam still has on him, and unable to resist all that pressure. Adam has demonstrated unequivocal control. And moments later, the referee pounds his palm to the mat to signify the pin:


I'm not posting these screencaps under the illusion that this is a "perfect" or even "exemplary" set of moves. I pretend to no objectivity, I admit to overwhelming bias, and I and still have only the slightest knowledge of wrestling's basic vocabulary and concepts. Indeed, I'm probably going to embarrass my son, whose knowledge is still fledgling but vastly exceeds my own, by overt mistakes or less obvious omissions in my descriptions here. As does he, I have enormous regard for the opponents my son has faced, including this young man from St. John's; this match could easily have gone the other way in just as short a time, because they were well matched. Nor do I intend to disparage anyone who's a participant in or fan of more popular sports like football or baseball, for I knew nothing of serious wrestling as I was growing up, and like most Texans I thought there were really only four sports: football, basketball, baseball, and spring football.

But in addition to my natural fatherly pride that my son is applying himself earnestly and with good results to this endeavor, I can't help but marvel at the purity and elemental beauty of this old, maybe oldest, of sports. It seems so simple, with two evenly matched young men (and, indeed, sometimes young women) holding each other at arms' length as they do halting, asynchronous dance steps around one another — and then suddenly one of them who knows even a little bit about what he (or she) is doing suddenly does something which looks like magic, just a glimmer too fast to even catch on slo-mo instant replay sometimes — and WHOOPS!, the other guy (or gal) is on his back, pinned. Low-tech and old-school. But way cool.

Posted by Beldar at 12:39 PM in Family, Sports | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Takedown and pin and sent a trackback ping are listed here:


(1) Michael J. Myers made the following comment | Jan 17, 2009 1:31:28 PM | Permalink

Way to go Pops! One of the nice things about being a lawyer is that you can (sometimes) rearrange your schedule so you can watch your son (or in my case my two daughters) high school athletic contests. Not all parents can do that; and in the case of girls' sports, most fathers don't seem to be able to find the time to watch them play. But I made the time, and enjoyed every minute of it. My daughters were mildly talented at best (and that's charity and parental pride speaking) at volleyball and basketball. Still I got to see my younger daughter (as a senior in high school) try to guard Lisa Leslie (then a freshman) who was on her way to future greatness as a professional basketball player. Let's simply say that Lisa had no difficulty scoring early and often over my daughter's defense. So what?

Your boy will remember that you were there for him--and it will mean a lot. There is no higher and better use of your time.

(2) Beldar made the following comment | Jan 17, 2009 2:01:12 PM | Permalink

Mr. Myers: We agree about the highest and best use of time. And next week starts youngest daughter Molly's soccer practices, leading to games which will extend into April; I saw all her games last season, and hope to again this one. Occasionally there will be court settings or the like that can't be re-arranged. But hopefully not too many. Court settings are with us always; these youngsters are only young once. I might write a few words about the historic presidential inauguration next week. Or maybe I won't; somehow, other things are more important to me right now.

(3) Syllabucks made the following comment | Jan 17, 2009 2:46:17 PM | Permalink

There is absolutely nothing more fun (nor agonizing for 6 minuntes at a time) than being a wrestling parent. We had TWO state qualifiers. I miss the fun... and as the mom of lower weight class wrestlers I miss being the subject on which they "tried new moves".

(4) DRJ made the following comment | Jan 19, 2009 7:20:26 PM | Permalink

I couldn't agree more about the joys of parenting and how great it is to be there for your kids. In addition, while I don't know much about wrestling, the feelings you describe as the parent of a wrestler are very similar to those I felt watching our son in Tae Kwon Do sparring matches. (I'm so glad those years are over.)

Finally, you're on target with the four sports of Texas, although I'd add honorable mention for golf.

(5) stan made the following comment | Jan 21, 2009 8:49:24 AM | Permalink

Wrestling takes incredible guts, toughness and commitment. As someone who played football in HS and college, I'm not sure I could have done what the wrestlers did.

One thing I noticed about wrestlers who also played football in HS -- they were always fundamentally sound, they played hard to the whistle every play, and they routinely whipped players substantially bigger than they were.

(6) Donna B. made the following comment | Jan 21, 2009 9:33:47 PM | Permalink

I was raised in Colorado where wrestling was equal to basketball in winter sports. I loved attending matches and watching my brother.

Basketball was always a much bigger deal than football, and I was amazed at the attention football got when I moved to Texas.

Good looking kid, too. If my daughters weren't already out of school and married, well... and durnit, he's too old for my 1 & 2 year granddaughters.

(7) Adam made the following comment | Jan 21, 2009 10:58:34 PM | Permalink

Why, thank you.

The post is fine, and I'm only slightly embarrassed :P, If anyone's wondering the move is called a 'Gable', named for a famous wrestler whose first name I cannot recall.

(8) Laura made the following comment | Jan 22, 2009 2:04:29 PM | Permalink

I can only echo the sentiments of being there for your kids. With an empty nest the quiet and absence of chaos are not as glorious as one might imagine. Enjoy them while you have that great opportunity!

(9) Kent made the following comment | Jan 24, 2009 10:40:31 AM | Permalink

I'm reading this post while waiting for my youngest two kids weight classes to come up at this weekends tournament. My oldest was a state qualifier and is now at West Point. The parents and kids in the wrestling community are the best. Good luck to your son. There are a lot of good life lessons to be learned for this sport.

(10) Mary made the following comment | Jan 27, 2009 7:56:20 PM | Permalink

The move is named after Dan Gable, an Iowa wrestler who lost only 1 match in his high school and college carreers. His record for high school and colleged combined was 118-1. He later won a gold medal at the 72 Olympics. As you can probably tell, I watched him wrestle while attending Iowa State. Unfortunately, his college coach was not ready to retire when Dan was ready to start coaching so he became an extraordinarily successful coach at the University of Iowa.

I did see him lose that match. It was for the national title in his weight class.

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