But lots and lots of perspiration
By Renee Whitmore
It’s winter break. Most 16-year-olds are Netflix binging, texting back and forth with the friend sitting right next to them, eating too much McDonalds, and overall doing whatever it is 16-year-olds do.
I’m waiting in my car, listening to my latest audiobook, in the parking lot outside the school. He said he would be done at 11 a.m., but I’ve done this enough to know that time is relative when it comes to wrestling practice. It’s already 11:12.
I text him, “I’m here. Groceries in the trunk. Hurry up.”
Time ticks by. I listen to my book and check Facebook for holiday updates. Nothing exciting. I can pretty much hear the ice cream melting in the trunk. Wait, no, it’s 37 degrees outside. It should be fine.
Then I see him, walking with a limp, surrounded by his teammates. He has no shirt on. (Did I mention it’s 37 degrees?) Sweat glistens over his skin. He’s carrying his gym bag with one hand and his wrestling shoes with another. He sees me, continues to limp to the car.
“How was it?” I ask after he slides into the passenger seat. “Why are you limping?”
“I had to train with the 152. It was rough.” (Wrestlers refer to each other not by name, but by weight.)
“Are you over?”
“You have two days.”
“Yeah. I can do it. I’m burning up. Can I turn on the AC?” he says, as he switches the knob from heat to cold and blasts the air. I shiver. (Did I mention it’s 37 degrees outside?)
His next tournament is in two days. Losing 8 pounds in two days sounds like a feat. Heck, I have been struggling with losing the same 5 pounds for a year-and-a-half. But I have learned, for wrestlers, it’s no biggie. They know all the tricks.
I used to hold my breath every time he stepped on the scale at home, wondering how a 5-foot, 6-inch manboy could wrestle in the 120-pound weight class. He’s naturally around 135-140, but this season, as a sophomore wrestling varsity, he decided he was going to wrestle 120 because his height would give him an advantage.
“I have practice again at 3,” he says, as he bites into a protein bar and takes a tiny swallow of water.
We pull into our driveway, he helps me unload the groceries, and before I can even get them all put way, he is running on the treadmill. I know the next two days will be rough. He will limit his food and water intake drastically.
He will take hot baths to “sweat.” I’ll hear him in there, letting lukewarm water out and filling it with steaming hot water over and over. Our water bill . . . well, you’d think we pressure-washed Mount Rushmore.
And he will run. He will run outside and on the treadmill several times a day. I will be trying to drift off to sleep around 11 p.m., and I will hear the hum and rhythm start up and the thump, thump, thump of his feet on the treadmill.
He tries other techniques to lose weight, too. For example, the other day while he was at school, I got a photo text of a half-filled water bottle.
I answered with a question mark.
“It’s spit. I think it’s at least a pound.”
“Gross,” I reply.
The days leading up to a tournament can be grueling, not just for him, but for all of us. No one wants to eat around him. The other day my husband, Jesse, was eating macaroni and cheese in our bedroom. “I don’t want him to see me eat,” Jesse said as he scooped a forkful into his mouth.
And then there’s the irritability that can’t really be avoided. He’s irritable because he’s hungry. I’m irritable because he’s hungry. My husband and other son are irritable because he’s hungry. I pray for patience.
On the day of the tournament, I wait for the text after weigh-ins. It’s just a number.
And I will breathe a sigh of relief. He made it. I will send him back the emoticon with the flexing biceps. “Now, eat something. Please.”
He will down a sandwich, a few protein bars, Gatorade, and water to get his strength back. In an hour or so, he will wrestle.
And the fun will begin. PS
When Renee isn’t teaching English or being a professional taxi driver for her two boys, she is working on her first book.