Grappling with a Demanding Sport


Jamisen Halverson, Writer

It’s hard to grapple with the fact that wrestling has been around for 15,000 years.

Wrestling is considered one of the oldest forms of combat, with pictographs of it dating that far back discovered on cave walls. References to it can be found in the Old Testament, and Homer even writes about it in The Illiad. Grecco-Roman wrestling was introduced into the ancient Olympics in 708 B.C., and millennia later—in the 1860s—professional wrestling as the “modern” world knows it starts to take hold.

Yet, the sport often gets a bad rap for its pins, clinch- and grappling-holds, takedowns, and a variety of other moves that put opponents in awkward positions. “It’s a weird sport,” admits freshman wrestler Nash Shupert, “because you are touching other people.” Fellow teammate Jacob Sommer, 11, agrees, adding, “People think that wrestling is all about sweaty guys in singlets.”

However, this image couldn’t be further from the truth. Take it from Central’s coach, Zach Whickar, who has not only coached the Blazers for the past eight years but also began competing in the sport himself at a very young age. “I joined because a friend was doing it in 7th grade,” he recalls. “He ended up not staying in and I did.” Why? “I think the individual side of the sport and the physicality of it kept me intrigued.”

While this may be true for Whickar, do his players hold the same opinion? “Wrestling is by far the hardest sport I’ve played!” exclaims Devon Billings, 12. “But, it’s been 100 percent worth it—the sense of achievement is worth it.” Worth the grueling hours of practice? “Absolutely! Not only does it discipline you, but it makes you an all around better athlete and person,” asserts Luis Perez, 12.

Wrestling is far more difficult than many realize, team members stress. “I think wrestling is one of the hardest sports you can do, but putting the effort into anything you are passionate about is worth it,” notes wrestler Makai Mitchell, 11. His coach would agree. “You control how prepared you are and how well you do,” Whickar explains. “Our ability to win a Sectional or even a State title is in your hands, unlike other team sports.”

The key to winning, however, extends beyond just physical preparedness. “The brotherhood you build with teammates,” is what motivates senior wrestler Sea Davis the most. “Even though we often look at wrestling as an individual sport,” Whickar explains, “our teams have always cared more about the team than the individual. Our wrestlers, past and present, have become a family as a result of the adversity they face together and the shared understanding of what the highs and lows mean.”

   Just joining that brotherhood is freshman Moses Fortoso, who sums it up well:  “I won’t lie and say this sport is easy; it is a serious mortal game. It will change you mortally and physically in a good way and, yes, this sport is very worth the effort and commitment.”