West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker

... on One Wrestler’s Journey to Manhood

Appropriate rules cultivate a disciplined character. -- W. Andrew Welker

Today I am going to relate a true story of one wrestler who learned a harsh lesson in sports...and became a man.

The coming-of-age incident occurred at the WV State Wrestling Championships a few years ago. The matman in question was an outstanding freshman who not only qualified for the event, but just completed winning a consolation bout that quaranteed him a 3rd or 4th place finish in the competition. Unfortunately, his behavior after the match cost him everything he worked for that season.

When the official raised his hand as the victor, the young wrestler senselessly displayed an obscene hand” gesture for all in attendence to view. The referee immediately pulled his arm down and disqualified the young wrestler from the state tournament.

As it turned out, the boy did not like the opposing coach and wanted to further illustrate that he was better than anybody the mentor could pit against him. It was a dreadful mistake that cost him dearly.

After the match, the wrestler’s coach wanted to appeal the decision with the person in charge of all state rulings in the sport of wrestling. I was that individual.

Having personally witnessed this athletic impropriety, I wasn’t very sympathetic. However, at this point, I must inform my readers that the coach acted in a very professional manner when he understood that the verdict would stand. Not bad, when you take into account that he was also the boy’s father.

A very bitter pill to swallow, but the adolescent’s dad (in his heart) knew there could be no other outcome regarding the actions of his son. I sincerely respected this mat mentor for his self-discipline and emotional control under the difficult circumstances. He was truly an excellent paternal role model for his son.

Now for the good news...this wrestler again qualified for states during his sophomore season. And as a junior, the young man became a West Virginia state champion, but this is far from the conclusion of the story. Listen carefully.

At the end of his senior mat season, this grappler again achieved all-state status and reached the finals. Ironically, I was watching the match with the referee that had to disqualify him during his first year at the Big Dance.”

It was nearing the climax of the bout and our boy was about to be defeated in his attempt to repeat as a state champion. The official tapped me on the knee and said, Watch, he’s going to ‘lose’ it again. I quietly responded, No he won’t; he learned his lesson because you did the right thing three years ago.

What happened? Well, after losing the bout, our boy shook his opponent’s hand, and then hugged him out of sincere respect. What more needs to be said.

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