As I hobbled around last week because of a sore knee, I realized that this summer marked a pretty important anniversary.
I thought about this because I tried to trace the root cause of my pain. I hadn’t taken a fall or had anything else serious happen. I had been exercising, but didn’t think overuse was a concern since I just came off a week without exercising while on vacation.
A few theories popped into my head, but one thought lingered in my head. I can always blame a lifetime of wrestling when something like this happens.
My career on the mats started about 35 years ago. That’s when I began competing for the first time, but I had goofed off with my older brothers before that.
Since that time, I have had some consistent connection with the sport. I coached for 11 years after finishing my college career (including a couple of years where I still competed) and have officiated for the past four or five.
The few years between those stints mainly consisted of covering the sport for the paper, my non-contact phase. But the injuries still lingered, including my latest issue.
I can’t directly connect my sore knee to what happened 30 years ago this summer, but it does count as part of the cumulative problem. In 1984, I made a long car trip to wrestle in my first national tournament.
The Junior National wrestling tournament pits the nation’s top wrestlers (plus guys like me) in Greco-Roman and freestyle, the two international styles. I never wrestled in the Greco tournament, but competed in freestyle three times.
When I headed to Cedar Falls, Iowa to compete at the huge domed arena on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa, i had no idea what to expect. That winter, I had my first strong season as a high school sophomore and hit the summer wrestling circuit to get even better.
The Maryland contingent at that time defined the term “rag tag.” I made the drive with two wrestlers and two coaches in a Dodge Colt. I sat on the back seat hump. For 24 hours. Next to a guy who never stopped rocking from side-to-side.
I ended up on the hump because both the other guys in the back had won state championships, but I hadn’t. The picture they took for my ID badge when we registered was frightening.
But we got to meet world champion Greco wrestler Steve Fraser there when he showed up to register at the same time. Then I went out and won my first match, beating a guy from New Mexico. At least I think he was from there.
I lost my next two matches and was eliminated. I went 2-2 the next year and 0-2 after my senior year, losing only to guys who were among the top wrestlers in the country. Three of the four guys who beat me in my final two visits ended up winning some sort of national title in their career.
So I can at least say some pretty talented people rubbed my face in the mat. And it all started with that long car ride 30 years ago.
I wonder if my knee hurt as bad after that ride as it did last week. I know I probably recovered quicker than I do these days.