I woke up suddenly to the sound of my alarm clock blaring in my ears. Turning over to my stomach I picked up my pillow and threw it at the clock, knocking it off my nightstand and straight into the wall. The buzzing slowly subsided, much better. Right as I am about to roll over and go back to sleep I hear my Mom scream from the other room, “Michael!! If you don’t get out of that bed right now you are going to miss the bus!”
“Leave me alone,” I hollered back, “I’m going back to sleep!”
“I guess I don’t need to come to your big wrestling match tonight then? That’s good, I need to go get my hair done and check up on your Aunt Patty and…”
Before I could even listen to her finish I jumped out of bed. The match, I thought to myself, I had totally forgotten it was tonight!
I threw on the first clothes I could find on the floor and ran toward the door. “Love you, Mom!” I shouted as I sprinted toward the bus stop. I made it just as the doors were beginning to close. I gave Miss Andrea, our bus driver, a quick smile. “Yeah, yeah, Michael, back to your seat,” she said rolling her eyes. It was an understatement to say I had a hard time getting out of bed in the morning.
I nodded to a couple of my friends as I walked all the way to the back of the bus to sit with John. He had been my best friend since the 1st grade and we had done everything together ever since, including the wrestling team.
“Hey, Michael, I was starting to think you had chickened out!” John said with a poke to my side.
“No, man… why would I chicken out? I have been looking forward to this match for two weeks now!” I replied.
“You didn’t hear?” John asked with a hint of concern on his face.
“Hear what?” I replied and leaned in closer. He had definitely elevated my curiosity.
“Ryan had to step out, man; he is sick or something like that. Anderson is replacing him.”
I couldn’t help but let out a small gasp. I tried to keep it in, I wanted to keep my fear in check but Anderson was not someone to joke about. Not only was he a 3-time champion, but by far the biggest high school wrestler anyone had ever seen. No one on our team could beat him and it got to the point that no one wanted to try.
“Michael? Are you okay?” John asked, his worry becoming more evident.
“Oh yeah, no, no, I’m fine! Anderson doesn’t scare me, John!” I retorted.
“Wow, you’re a lot braver than I give you credit for, man!” John said as he stood up.
The bus had arrived at the school. We gathered our items and started to head to our classes. “I’ll see you tonight!” John shouted back to me as he headed down the hall. “Yeah, tonight!” was all I could muster out.
The truth is, I was afraid of Anderson. He towered over my 5 foot 8 inch frame by at least half a foot and he had a good 75 pounds on me. There was a reason he was almost undefeated and a three time champion. I found myself in my first class unable to focus or concentrate. The match was all I could think about. After 4th period, I had enough; I had to go talk to the coach. I needed to get out of this.
I made my way down toward the gym until I found Coach Smith. He was a tall man, at around 6 foot 4 inches; you could tell he used to be in great shape. Now his body begun to show its age, his black hair peppered with time.
“Coach, I need to talk to you,” I said in a quiet tone. No one else was there but I was still afraid someone would hear me. I didn’t want people to think I was a coward, even if I was.
“Hey, Michael, sure come on into my office.” Coach Smith replied with a warm smile.
I followed him in and took the liberty to shut the door behind us.
“I can’t wrestle tonight, coach, I just can’t. How is Anderson even in my weight class? He towers over me. I can’t wrestle him in front of the whole school! I’ll never live it down!” My voice started to raise unintentionally, the emotion was beginning to show through.
“Listen to me, Michael; you are looking at this all wrong. Anderson’s size is to your advantage. I thought I taught you that. Do you remember way back when you first started?”
I tried to think back to those first couple of years. Maybe it was the anxiety that was plaguing me at the moment but nothing was coming.
“No, Coach, sorry, I don’t remember.”
“Well, that is why you are worried then. I would have switched you out if I thought you couldn’t take him, but I know you can. Your advantage here is that you are the little guy. You are faster and more agile than he is. You just have to find his weak points.”
“Find his weak points? How exactly will I do that when he has me pinned to the mat?” I snipped back.
“Calm down, Michael, trust me, you are looking at this all wrong. You can’t go in thinking you’re going to be defeated, you have to go in knowing you’re going to win!”
It was hard not to find Coach Smith’s optimism contagious. I realized at that point that unless I was a no show and risk getting kicked off of the team or I figured out how to come down with a sudden illness, there was no getting out of this.
“You’re right, Coach. Thanks for the talk.” I replied as I stood up. He gave me a pat on the shoulder as I walked out of the room.
“I’ll see you tonight! You got this!” Coach said as I left; his final encouraging words.
It wasn’t long before the match began so I decided to head to the locker room to get changed. I put my backpack and clothes in my locker and headed out to see what the turnout would look like. Word must have spread because the auditorium was packed. My Mom spotted me and waved happily in my direction. I let out a sigh and waved back, this was really happening.
It wasn’t long before Anderson and his team showed up. As he walked by his group walked at his side, proud of their undefeated champion. He didn’t even glance in my direction. As I waited for the match to start I looked him over. Where could there possibly be a weak point on this guy’s body? Then I began to look harder, you know, his legs do look smaller than the rest of his body, I thought to myself. I tried to recall prior matches and I always remember him rushing his opponent and taking them down in a hard grapple. I started to plot my plan of action.
The referee called us over to the mat, it was time. I stood inside of the circle and shook Anderson’s hand. You could tell he only did it because he had to. All I could think about was how I really hoped my plan worked. As the bell sounded the first thing I did was dodge out of his way. Just in time too as he went barreling past where I was just standing. He noticed what I had done and it only seemed to fuel his determination. He headed at me again and this time he was able to get me in a lock. I need to use what I have to my advantage, I thought to myself. I quickly threw my arms up and let the rest of my body go limp. Without much ease I slid right out of his grip and bounced around him before he could even realize what I had done. The legs! I thought to myself. I immediately barreled into his legs, catching him behind his knees, dropping myself to the ground while I pushed. My calculations were right and he immediately went down. I took this as my opportunity and threw myself on top of him in the best lock I could manage. I had no idea how long we were there, it seemed like forever, and I knew it was only a matter of time before he would throw me off.
Suddenly, the bell rung, that was it, I had won. I stood up in complete shock and looked around me at the crowd going crazy. Smiles and cheers surrounded me. I looked down at my obviously disappointed and annoyed opponent and offered him a hand up. He looked at me surprised but took it. “Good match,” I said to him. He didn’t reply, but I was okay with that.
My teammates encircled me, their words melding together and creating an indistinguishable buzzing sound. It was only Coach I heard through all of them. “I knew you could do it, Michael!” was all I managed to hear through the mob around me. I may not have known it before, but I knew it now. What was the moral of my victory? Whether you think you can or can’t do it, you are probably right.