Herding our Wrestlers

Watching youth wrestling is reminiscent of observing a herd of cows with baby calves. Protective motherly instincts are also evident in wrestling moms at crowded tournaments.

Once cows get sorted off, they call and wait for their baby outside of the corrals. Wrestling moms like me, experience this same temporary separation at weigh-ins (moms aren’t allowed because some wrestlers weigh in their underwear). During separation, calves and wrestlers get handled by strangers while mothers anxiously wait. Calves get branded and ear-tagged while wrestlers’ hands get marked with their weight and age. Once reunited or mothered-up, cows check over their calves by smelling them. Moms avoid smelling their wrestlers but examine their hands to see what they weighed and confirm that nothing’s been left behind during weigh-ins. Afterwards, cows or moms lead their offspring away from the crowded area of other mothers and pairs.

Like cows, we take our wrestlers to feed. Wrestlers don’t bed down in their mother’s food like calves but do try to eat off their mom’s plate. Similar to babysitter cows, some moms will to stay with a handful of wrestlers while other mothers leave to get breakfast and return to feed their wrestlers. Babysitter moms watch wrestlers play and warm-up on the wrestling mats until their own mothers return like babysitter cows do during feeding. While waiting for the tournament to start, mothers sit around and chew the fat over different topics while watching the wrestlers practice on the mats. Cows either graze or chew their cud with other cows while the calves run around together.

During the tournament, wrestlers generally stay near their mother until his age division is announced. Then mothers nudge, pat and encourage them as they leave. A cow keeps her calf fairly close and will periodically lick or smell it.

Both kinds of moms exhibit protective motherly instincts openly which are most prominent when offspring are bawling. Some wrestlers bawl when their body or pride is hurt. Calves bawl when hungry or handled. Cows will beller back loudly, get snorty, run up to sniff her calf or try to take the stranger handling her baby. Sometimes a wrestlers’ momma will run down pell-mell in order to comfort him or intervene if necessary. Instances of separated or lost offspring produces a frantic momma in which both mothers and cows will approach other offspring, check different areas for her baby’s familiar bawling sounds, call them, or return to the last place they were together.

Personalities in both types of mothers range from aggressive and belligerent to docile and distracted. It’s rare, but a few are lazy and neglectful. Some cows jump fences or beller incessantly during separation. Wrestling mats are roped off because watching matside isn’t allowed. This can cause fence jumping in wrestling moms with separation anxieties who want to video matches, cheer, or take pictures up close. Several contemplate jumping but wait anxiously instead for the stranger in a referee shirt to release the wrestler from the mats before mothering-up matside and leading him off. Cows and wrestling moms are most content when the ordeal is over and can take their offspring away. Once mothered-up and left alone, the wonderful sound of silence resumes.

column originally published February 17-23, 2008

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