V is for Vindication

I read somewhere once that some people have “Movie Moments” in their lives.  When I was thinking about writing this post, I realized that all of the Movie Moments in my own life have a decidedly Rocky-esque feel to them.  Maybe that’s why I love sports so much, because it’s given me most of my silver screen worthy experiences.

This weekend offered me another one.  And, because I myself am far too old, out of shape and poorly coordinated for my own athletic heroism – this moment is once again brought to you by, The Baby Brother.

About 3 months ago, right at the beginning of wrestling season, my brother had a wrestling meet that was farther away than usual.  Actually, I don’t remember where it was but I know I wasn’t there and distance is the only reason I can come up with for why I would have missed it.  ANYWAY – he dislocated his shoulder.  Badly.  Bad enough that he didn’t wrestle for a month.  Bad enough that when he has wrestled since then, it has re-dislocated nearly every tme.  Bad enough that his senior year has been a far cry short of what he’d always imagined it would be.

Going into this weekend’s Sectional Tournament, his record for the year was 14 and 5.  One of those 14 he earned two weeks ago, wrestling with one arm because the other was completely out of socket again but he was determined to finish the match.  To watch him continue on and win with one arm that day was amazing… and painful.  Because I knew what we were going to have to do in the hall afterwards – the pain his face would reflect when they held him down and wrenched his arm back into place.

The season has been agonizing for all of us.  Especially, of course, for him.

This weekend was Sectionals.  For those of you who don’t keep up with small town Iowa High School Wrestling – you have to get first or second at Sectionals to go on to Districts.  You then have to get first or second at Districts to go on to State.  State is, for most of these boys, the Holy Grail of accomplishments.  It’s what defines an entire season.  Sectionals, basically, is the beginning of the “Go On or Go Home” post-season of wrestling.

After analyzing the brackets and carefully sizing up the competition, we’d figured out earlier in the week what my brother would need to do to move on:

a) Keep his shoulder in its socket (by praying to God no one wrenched on it)

b) Defeat a kid he’d wrestled at the beginning of the season.  Specifically, the kid that had originally dislocated his shoulder.  The kid that – although an AWESOME young man, I must say – left my brother feeling robbed of his last season.

I sat in my seat on Saturday literally shaking with anticipation.  My heart pounded, my stomach flipped, and my legs twitched uncontrollably as I heard them call out his weight class.

I watched him prepare himself in the corner of the room, at the edge of the mat where he would defend his right to compete.  He shifted his weight back and forth, back and forth.  His face was cold and hard and almost blank.  Almost.  Except for the tiny bit of tension, fear and anxiety that I could feel all the way up in the bleachers.

At that moment, I just wanted it all to be over.

And then he was up.  He stripped down his shorts, slapped his arms and his legs and ran onto the mat.  He was set before his opponent even stepped out.  The ref blew the whistle.

And here is where my abilities as a sports writer completely fall apart.  I can’t for the life of me recall the details or the proper sequence of events.  I’m pretty sure he got the first take down.  I know that at the beginning of the second period he had to start in the down position – aka, get down on the mat and basically beg the other kid to yank on his injured shoulder.  But beyond that, the details get fuzzy and unexplainable.

What I do know is, sometime in the second period, just before I would have lost my damn mind – he pinned him.  He pinned the kid who had dislocated his shoulder earlier in the year, and guaranteed himself a spot at Districts.

And the moment the ref slammed the mat and blew the whistle “pin”, he leapt up, turned to where my mom and I stood screaming, and pointed at us with both hands in a show of pride and victory and vindication like I have rarely seen.  He’d done it.  He’d reclaimed what he’d lost since that injury 3 months ago – his reputation, his pride, his confidence in himself.

He beamed with pride and it spilled over onto us in waves.

I was so relieved I cried.  Because he was not hurt.  Because he was not sad.  Because he could be proud of his accomplishments again.  Because it had been worth it.

The hours in the car.  The late nights at long tournaments.  The fear every time he’d wrestled this year, waiting for the moment when he’d be grabbing his arm again, limp on the mat.  All the times you sat in the bleachers when you had loads of laundry and piles of Other Things To Do – and it was worth it.  Because with that one look he let us all know that he knew we were there, and it meant something.

As he stood on the podium at the end of the day, I caught his eye from where I stood.  And of course I couldn’t help myself and grinned like a big ol’ fool.  He didn’t turn towards me.  He didn’t loose his “I’m So Freaking Cool” posture.  But ever-so-slightly, he smirked.

And right there, my movie moment was all wrapped up in a little bow.  The pride and the joy and the relief…

…and the realization that I am completely content with living my movie moments vicariously through him.

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