In his first tournament Benny was nervous. He had never seen so many people watching little kids wrestle. The gym where he practices has enough room for the mat, and about a foot of tile beyond the mat before there is a wall. People don't normally stay to watch the kids practice, so it's just him, his teammates and coaches.
This was a little different. All the other boys have been wrestling for a while and knew that when you're waiting for the tournament to start you play around the with other guys, doing moves and horsing around. Ben's not all that comfortable yet with his teammates, especially to just take a guy down that he sees standing on the mat.
Fortunately, the head coach's mom, who's been around the sport for a while, coaxed Benny and another little boy to practice together. That poor kid. Benny felt like he was the only one he could practice with, so when that kid went to shoot at another kid's legs, Benny followed or stood there and watched, looking extremely uncomfortable.
And I watched it all from the top of the gym. There were two levels of bleachers and the lower level was full, so we went upstairs to give the other kids some room to move around. (It was a big mistake to bring them in the first place. Wrestling tournaments are long!) So I sat up there feeling terrible for Ben. He didn't know I was watching him, seeing how nervous he was, standing there in such an odd getup. I was trying to send him my vibe, hoping that he'd know that we were all there supporting him, wishing him luck from up top because we weren't supposed to be down by the mats.
The first match came and went and Benny lost. His eyes were filled with tears. This wasn't fun. Whose idea was this? Part of the problem was that he was replicating what happens at practice. When a teammate is making a move on you, you let it happen. They're practicing. When you're doing a move on a teammate, you go so far and then do another drill. Benny pretty much had the kid at one point, but stopped, just like he would have if he was at practice. He was being way to nice and allowing his nerves to get in the way.
After the first match, Benny's coach told him that he didn't have to take the other guy's pushing him around. He had Ben push on his chest to show him how he should take care of the next guy. It worked. Benny came out fighting the next round, got that look in his eyes that I imagine will scare the living daylights out of future opponents.
When it was all over, Benny got 4th place and that came with a medal! It wasn't easy for him, but he didn't give up and got the added bonus of bringing home some hardware. His brothers are excited--although I'm not sure if it's more because it was time to go home or if they were thrilled with their brother's accomplishments!
Thanks so much to Uncle Hog, for your tips, supporting Benny from matside, and for taking these great pictures!