Monday, March 24, 2008

What does College Wrestling have to do with Bowling?

I spent most of the weekend observing the NCAA Division 1 College Wrestling Championships in St. Louis MO. Some of these dedicated young men completed careers that started in a kid’s club program 10, 15, 20 years ago, as early as the age of 4 or 5.

Though I've seen my own boys experience the camaraderie of sports teams, successful wrestling teams often have lightweights (103 in High School, 125 in College) quick as lightening throwing themselves all around to heavy weights (capped at 285 in College) that sometimes barely can move each other (but often can lift and throw each other). Yet, the vastly different sized athletes have one thing in common; they must win, to win as a team.

But each match is a 6 to 7 minute (plus) battle (sometimes WAR) with occasionally no clear winner. The referee must determine if the match was executed according to the rules. The referee determines penalties, evaluates intent, measures degree (sometimes of injury or likely injury). What does College wrestling have to do with Bowling? First, NO referee in Bowling (just a foul light).

I observed athletes (late teens to mid twenties) maximizing years of weight management (controlling their body weight) to utilize the most size, strength, and agility for their weight class. When did you last hear of a bowler working out?

These kids, molding their bodies with weightlifting/weight training, hours of drilling and live wrestling to achieve for themselves the best possible physical shape, flexibility, and stamina.

Once the physical aspect is addressed, think about understanding and mastering the myriad of wrestling techniques to take down, turn to the back, escape from or control an opponent. How many bowlers do you know that have more than one hand position to release the ball with? Or, a bowler that starts at one place and never moves, all night long, no matter what the ball is doing, or how the lane is influencing the action.

I have seen young men end their careers, inches, seconds, heartbeats away from achieving an NCAA Individual National Championship and straighten up and shake their opponent’s hand, often with a word of congratulations. How can these young men stand the heartbreak? How do they overcome the injuries? How do they stand the frustration? How do they overcome the disappointment? How do they tolerate when, occasionally, one of the aforementioned referees makes a bad call, giving a Championship to one instead of the other? How can a Bowler complain about ANYTHING?

Whatever the cause (some suggest Title IX, lack of fan $$upport, liability, some people just don't understand) wrestling at the highest levels in the U.S. is NOT expanding and flourishing (while it continues to expand and flourish at High School and lower levels). Bowling is the #1 indoor activity in the country. Bowling leagues, organized competition, have diminished dramatically in the last 10 years. I'd love to know the answer to the question "Where have all the league bowlers gone?"

We certainly don't have to train hard. We can buy "tools" (balls/equipment) that improves our ability to compete. We control our environment with those "tools." Our environment has gotten easier and easier. We don't have to be big and strong (Pete Weber, Norm Duke, Carolyn Dorin-Ballard), or small and agile (Mika, Walter Ray Williams, Jr., Steve Cook) to play at a very high level.

Whatever it is about wrestling, that has the athletes love it so much, we need a little in Bowling (or maybe a little more). But, I'd guess that the true greats: Dick Weber, Earl Anthony, Walter Ray, Don Carter, Petey, Duke, (the list goes on and on) would have been great wrestlers too.

I have had the pleasure of seeing some truly amazing bowlers bowl, and they were flawless. Not just pretty solid, or better than average, FLAWLESS. Years after his retirement, Earl Anthony, working for a lane supply company, showed how it was done. After YEARS in retirement, each delivery was identical, each slide was exact, each ball struck. I'm pretty good, he was god! WOW!

So, if you come across any wrestlers ask them to join a bowling league. Or just compliment them on the tremendous drive it must take to compete in their sport and take them out to eat (most have to cut weight so they don't eat too much at any one time!). Good Bowling.

No comments: