West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker

... on Wrestling and Physical Toughness

The NCAA Wrestling Rulebook has often referred to the mat competition as "a sport of discomfort."

I, for one, will never deny the above statement's printed reality of wrestling. For some, it may sound a bit harsh, but for guys like me it was a lesson in life that lasted a lifetime.

To be honest, I was basically a mama's boy. It was my older brother, Floyd, who was the street-fighter. Wrestling hardened me in body and spirit. The sport prepared me for the tough roads that I would to travel in this world. And I learned quickly. Sometimes the worst beatings are the best learning lessons we can experience. Allow me to explain.

As a freshman grappling in the Boiling Springs Christmas Invitational (the second oldest wrestling tourney in Pennsylvania), I met the meanest wrestler in my athletic career. It was in the semi-finals of the competition, and the monster's name Alton Bowyer, a senior wrestler from Easton High School. I learned how to fight that day, or should I say survive.

The match between yours truly and Mr. Bowyer ended by a decision, 5-1. Of course, I lost. But it was more than a loss, it was my introduction to the more primordial aspects of scholastic athletics.

When I walked off the mat, I had a black eye, a pounding headache, a bruised chin, and extremely sore ribs. In reality, I received a "body beating" that I have never forgotten. Did Alton Bowyer commit any unsportsmanlike acts or unnecessary roughness? Perhaps, but in those days you took your lumps (and sometimes, cheap shots) without complaining to the match official. Excuses for losing were definitely not options back then, especially with our coach.

Although I was not a very physical or intimidating wrestler myself, I learned to endure it from others as well. During the nearly 100 bouts I wrestled in high school, there were many times my leg and arm joints were often stretched beyond the normal range of motion. Thank goodness for those flexibility exercises we performed everyday at practice. Fortunately, the rules of wrestling have changed drastically in reference to protecting the matmen. There are now many more "illegal holds" that were permitted in the 1950s and 1960s.

Furthermore, our contemporary referees are much better educated and far more aware of the "potentially dangerous" situations can occur during a bout. Matches are stopped immediately under these circumstances. The modern wrestling official's primary concern is the safety of the wrestlers.

As for yours truly, I still relish the opportunities I had competing against adversaries who pushed your physical and mental abilities to the limit.

Remember the old adage, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Such was the case for me.

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