A Wrestling Story About Giving During Christmas

This goes way back to the early 80's in Central NY (between Utica and Syracuse) to a large high school tournament just a few days before Christmas. In a field of about 35 teams, this 2-day event featured some of the biggest/best teams in the state (Baldwinsville & Fulton) as well as several schools with graduating classes totaling less than 35 kids! Anyway, at some point during Friday night's action, wrestling on 1 of the 4 mats was halted because a boy didn't have any wrestling shoes, and the shoes he would normally wear were on the feet of his teammate who was wrestling on a different mat. It did not take long before this made it through the gym and bleachers. Though sad, it was not really all that rare back then. Many of these tiny schools were (and are) extremely rural with very meager means. Anyway, that happened at least one more time that evening to a different team, as best I can recall.

The next morning as the teams were arriving and warming-up, I remember a few coaches being called to the head table, and within a few brief moments, I remember the crowd erupting, tons of kids hopping around, and several adults (my Mom and Grandmother included) were crying. Again, I was a Sophomore I think, so I really wasn't totally aware of what had just happened. Well, a some point the night before, some coaches had apparently gotten together to pool a bunch of wrestling shoes together. I remember there being a couple of boxes of shoes, and all of the boys without wrestling shoes (about 10 or so I think) got to pick through the boxes of shoes to find a pair that fit. I don't know where all the used shoes came from, but I suspect they came from a couple of the larger schools attending since there seemed to be 2 or 3 predominate styles and team colors.

Besides remembering my Mom in tears (very embarrassing for me at the time!), I can still the faces of a few of the boys as they put on their gifts. As I think back on it now, that was a time when humanity was at its best. It was a moment when the wrestling community shined bright. It's been many decades since that experience, but even now as an Assistance Coach I try to pay it back by paying it forward to those kids who need a helping hand. Just yesterday I gave away my 5th pair of practice shoes (in 9 years) to a Sophomore on his very first wrestling practice ever ... so I had to dig through our used shoe box for something to wear during practice :)

So, all of you Coaches, parents, wrestlers and fans out there who make our community the best in all of sports, take this time during the Christmas Holiday to honor the past by giving towards our future. Bless you all!
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