The Match Matt sat fidgeting in his chair during fourth period history, not quite able to concentrate

on Mr. Volt’s lecture. His mind was definitely not on early American history right now. His stomach growled, reminding him that he had not eaten much today. Why did he let Sean talk him into joining the wrestling team, he thought? He joined the team late with only a week before their first tournament and did not have much time to make weight. Football season ended and as a junior, Matt was the starting left guard for the Lakeview Hornets. Offensive linemen were known for being bulky and large and Matt ended the season weighing around two hundred and thirty pounds. It was not easy for Matt to drop the weight but he had just made the two hundred fifteen pound limit to qualify for the heavyweight weight class by dropping the fifteen pounds just in time for the first tournament. The tournament went fairly well for him considering he only had a week’s worth of instruction. His first match was a blur. He was nervous and facing off against a boy with more experience. A rookie mistake ended the match towards the end of the first period. He won his second match in the tournament against a boy who was obviously as clueless as he was to the finer points and techniques and eked out a narrow victory. His third match ended quickly. Between the rapid weight loss and two previous matches, he didn’t have much left and the match was quick. Overall he was not upset by his performance and the coach seemed pleased. The bell rang, signaling the end of the period, rousing Matt from his day dreaming. He grabbed his books and headed for the hallway. Before heading to class, he stopped quickly at his locker to grab a textbook. Sean was coming down the hallway towards him, a big grin on his face. He was taller than Matt by an inch or two and similarly framed but actually weighed less, mostly due to Matt being a more avid weight lifter. Sean was his best friend and the one who cajoled him into joining the team after the boy who was the starting wrestler at heavyweight moved away unexpectedly only a week before the start of the season. Matt had not wanted to join but his friend’s persistence won him over. “You ready?” Sean asked. “For class?” Matt replied.

“No, dickhead, the match,” Sean said while giving Matt a playful punch in the arm. “I guess,” Matt said halfheartedly. “Stop worrying so much,” Sean said. “You’ll be fine.” “It’s just..,” Matt started. “Forget about Tuesday,” Sean said reassuring, “it happens to all of us.” Tuesday was their first regular meet against one of Lakeview’s biggest rival, Morrisville. It was back and forth with both sides winning matches. The team score was all tied going into the last match, the heavyweight match, Matt’s match. Matt needed to win for his team to win. He was facing one of the topranked heavyweights in the county and was simply outclassed. His failure had cost the team a victory. “Let’s get going,” Matt said not wanting to continue the discussion. “You know how Mrs. Norris is about being late.” “One sec,” Sean replied as he stopped at a water fountain to get a drink. “Hey, not to much,” Matt scolded, “you have to make weight too!” “OK Mom,” Sean kidded. Mrs. Norris’ English class went by quickly. Like his previous class, Matt barely heard a word that his teacher had spoken. They were discussing Shakespeare but for all he knew it could have been Dr. Seuss. The bell rang and Sean exited Mrs. Norris’ class a couple steps behind and quickly caught up to him. “Heading to the café?” Sean asked. “Nah,” Matt replied, “I’m not really in the mood to eat. I think I’ll just head to the library and get some homework out the way.” “I’m gonna go and grab some lunch,” Sean said. “Don’t eat too much,” Matt reminded. “You barely made weight last time and coach’ll kill ya if you don’t make it!” “You worry too much,” Sean chided. “Go and relax. I’ll see ya later bro!”

“See ya,” Matt said. The end of the school day didn’t come soon enough. Matt was not able to concentrate in any of his classes and the fact that he had only eaten an apple the entire day did not make things any better. Maybe he should just go to the nurse, say he was sick and get sent home. It was not that far from the truth. Feelings of guild overshadowed his feeling of dread and he nixed that idea. The team boarded the bus to take them across town to Yorkville High for the meet. Being from the same town, the two schools enjoyed a natural rivalry which Yorkville typically got the better of. This was one sport that Lakeview normally excelled at so it was expected that they would win today. Filing out of the bus, they headed to the visitors locker where they would be weighed in. “Philips,” called the official. Sean walked up to the scale wearing only a pair of boxer shorts and stepped on. “180,” announced the official meaning that Sean was three pounds over the weight limit. Sean spent the next thirty minutes alternating between jogging around the locker room in a plastic suit and the toilet in vain attempt that to cut weight. He got down to 178 but couldn’t qualify to wrestle. With Sean out of the line up, Coach Penbrook would need to make some adjustments to the line up. Two of the better wrestlers on the team, Carlo and Angelo each bumped up a weight class to fill the void. Coach Penbrook submitted the line up cards with the changes. Jimmy, a junior varsity wrestler would take Carlo’s place at 155. Carlo’s opponent was the best wrestler on the Yorkville team and while Carlo could probably beat him, the match would be tough. Coach knew that Carlo could beat the wrestler at 165 and was fairly certain that Angelo could easily handle his opponent at 177. He essentially sacrificed the 155 pound match and poor Jimmy for better match ups later on. It was actually not a bad strategy. The team filed out of the locker room into the gymnasium for the pre-meet warm ups. The matches were competed in weight order with the lowest weights being first and the highest weight last. The first two matches were won easily by Lakeview with Joey and Bobby, each scoring a pin on their opponent. Giving the team an early 12-0 lead in the meet. Matt breathed easier thinking and even managed a smile thinking that by the time he wrestled the meet would already be won and other than his own personal won-loss record, the match would not have any significance.

The momentum of the meet completely changed over the next several matches with Yorkville taking most of the wins. The entire team was in shock. What looked to be an easy win was now looking like an almost sure loss. Leading into the 155 pound match, Yorkville actually was leading by eleven points. Jimmy, the short and pudgy tenth grader who normally wrestled the junior varsity matches marched out onto the mat looking like a poor little lamb being led to the slaughter. In essence, that is what he was. Coach planned for this and accounted for the almost assured loss but now it looked like the plan was backfiring. Lakeview could not afford another loss. Poor, little Jimmy put up a valiant struggle but the boy from Yorkville was bigger, stronger and older. The match was the shortest of the night with Jimmy being pinned easily. The score was now 23-40, an almost insurmountable lead for Yorkville. With only three matches left and a seventeen point deficit, the only chance for a Lakeview win would be to get three pins in a row. Carlo stood by Coach Penbrook waiting for his name to be called. The coach didn’t say much. Carlo, also a junior like Matt and Angelo had been wrestling since the eighth grade and knew what he needed to do. He stepped onto the mat with confidence and waited eagerly for the match to start. His face was a mask of intensity as the whistle blew. Carlo exploded into action taking his opponent down and quickly working him onto his stomach. He worked in a half nelson and pivoted around to get his opponent on his back. The boy struggled in vain as the referee’s arm hit the mat signaling a pin. In a little over thirty seconds, Carlo had given his team some hope. A knot began to work its way into Matt stomach as he realized that the impossible might be happening. If Angelo could pin his opponent, it would once again come down to the last match, Matt’s match to determine the outcome of the meet. Angelo seemed relaxed as he made his way onto the mat. His opponent was a tall and lanky kid and outweighed him by twelve pounds but Angelo was an athlete. He may have been giving up height and weight but Angelo made up for it with strength and determination. The match began with Angelo getting the early take down but that didn’t last as his opponent reversed the takedown followed by an escape by Angelo. Both men were back on their feet and the process continued for the remainder of the first period. Angelo led by a few points but he had no luck in getting his opponent onto his back for a pin.

The second period ended in similar fashion with Angelo enjoying a comfortable eight point lead. A decision would not be enough, Angelo had to pin his opponent. The third and final period started with both men on their feet. They locked up and Angelo could feel that his opponent was tiring. If he was going to make a move, now was the time. Angelo locked his right arm over his opponents left arm and shot in on his knee, locking his arm around his opponents left leg. He rolled to his right, bringing his opponent over his shoulder in what was known as a fireman’s carry. It was Angelo’s favorite move and one that he drilled over and over in practice with both Sean and Matt. Working with the two heavier wrestlers paid off as he took his larger opponent down to the mat and onto his back. Angelo pivoted around never letting go of his opponent and landing on top of him. His opponent was trapped and moments later the match ended with a pin. The rest of the team was on their feet except for Matt who sat with a look of horror on his face as the realization came to him that it was now up to him again. Matt would have to pin his opponent something he was not able to do in his four previous matches. “Baker,” called Coach Penbrook as Angelo was having his arm raised in the center of the match. “You ready?” “Yeah coach,” Matt replied, lacking much confidence. His stomach was in knots and he wanted to vomit. This was exactly the scenario he dreaded. “You know you need to pin him, right?” Coach Penbrook said. “I’m not expecting a miracle, just do your best.” The “motivational” speech from Coach Penbrook did little to lift his spirits or relieve the dread he was feeling. His mind was reeling and he barely heard the announcer call his name, signaling him to enter the mat. He faintly heard Sean shouting out encouragement. The coach was so upset with Sean that he did not even allowed him to dress and made him sit in the stands with the other spectators. The noise from the crowd began to fade away as he focused his mind on the match. It would just be him and his opponent. The boy’s name was Rocco. Matt had heard of him but not due to his wrestling prowess. Rocco was the goalie of the Yorkville lacrosse team that won the state championship the previous year. The boy was supposed to be quick with lighting fast reflexes. Aside from that, he didn’t appear overly imposing. Matt was a couple of inches taller and probably outweighed him by ten pounds.

The two men stood ready in the center of the mat as the referee signaled for the match to begin. Matt was tentative as he and his opponent circled the ring. Rocco looked confident and Matt had the look of someone just trying to survive. The two combatants locked up in the center of the mat, jockeying for position. Both men pushed and pulled trying to gain the advantage and move in for a takedown. Matt pushed Rocco away and began to stalk his opponent. Rocco shot in for a takedown, hoping to surprise his larger opponent but Matt was fast enough to avoid the attempt. Matt sprawled out forcing his weight down on Rocco’s back and spun behind him forcing him onto his stomach for the takedown. Matt immediately went for the pin. He hooked his arm under his opponent’s arm and behind his neck attempting to force him onto his back. Matt was the stronger wrestler but Rocco used his agility and flexibility to fight the attempt. Matt was gaining ground and had his opponent half onto his back. The referee waved his arm along the mat sideways indicating a pin attempt. Matt continued to press feeling his opponent’s strength giving but as he felt him starting to roll, the whistle blew signaling the end of the period. The referee awarded three points for the near pin bringing the score to 5-0 in Matt’s favor. He was breathing heavy having exerted a lot of energy attempting to pin the Yorkville wrestler. His opponent looked just as tired and there was something else there. Gone was the look of confidence replaced by fear. Rocco was now the one trying not to lose. The second period begun and Matt chose the neutral position meaning both men would start on their feet. This time Matt was the aggressor and shot in for a takedown. His opponent was tiring but still held the edge in speed. Rocco was able to avoid the takedown and spin behind Matt. Rocco tried to break his opponent down to score a takedown but Matt locked his arms and legs blocking him. Rocco was definitely tiring and his grip was loosening. Matt sensed his opponent weakening broke the grip and spun to face his opponent. Both men were on their knees struggling to gain the upper hand. The two locked eyes and Matt could see the look of defeat. Now was the time! While not the most technically proficient wrestler given his limited experience, Matt was a football player and knew how to tackle. He exploded forward on his knees, driving his shoulder into his opponent’s midsection, executing a textbook tackle and sending Rocco flying onto his back. Matt scrambled forward placing all of his weight on his opponent’s chest. The two men fought for what seemed like eternity with Matt pressing with all of his might. Time slowed and all went silent as he felt Rocco struggling with every ounce of his remaining strength. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the referee on the mat, his arm raised. With one last push, he felt his opponent stop

struggling. The only sound Matt heard was the pounding of the mat as the referee signaled a pin. Sound exploded all around him as his teammates were going wild with celebration. Students and parents from Lakeview cheered loudly in the stands. Matt could not hold his emotions in as he rocked back on his knees, pumped both arms in the air and let out a yell. Matt quickly remembered his place and got to his feet. His opponent stood next to the referee with a forlorn look on his face. Matt understood what Rocco was feeling as he felt the same way only a few days earlier. This was his time now and all he felt was triumphant joy. All the fear of the past day vanished replaced by a new confidence. “Winner, Baker,” the referee shouted as he raised Matt’s arm in victory. The two opponents shook hands and parted. Matt turned just in time to see his entire team rushing towards him. He was buried in an avalanche of his own teammates as the shouts of “you did it” and “we won” filled the air. The celebration lasted for what seemed like hours. Matt picked himself up off the mat not wanting the feeling to end. Coach Penbrook was standing on the side with a smile on his face. “Great work, Matt”, Coach Penbrook said. “I’m proud of you!” “Thanks coach,” was all Matt could say as he began to walk back towards the locker room. “One other thing,” the Coach said. “Yeah, Coach?” Matt replied. “Don’t ever let me see you celebrate like that again,” Coach Penbrook said with a sarcastic grim on his face. “Sure thing,” Matt said as he pumped an arm in the air and gave one final shout before disappearing into the locker room. The End