If you’ve never watched a bunch of kids in singlets and headgear wrestling each other on a mat then let me shed some light:

Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.

You know those terrible, slo-mo sequences of the innocently grazing gazelle whose life is suddenly, terribly, in dire peril? It’s like that. Only with children.

Wrestling is an amazing sport. Just watching these kids grappling with each other brings up some mighty primitive emotions. GET AWAY, you scream. GET OUT FROM UNDER. When another being has you in a hold and suddenly your limbs aren’t functioning – that’s when the neurons either fire with adrenaline or begin a shutdown process.

And the emotion. All of it – fear, determination, desperation, anguish, frustration – right on the surface and heated like a layer of coals. There’s no self consciousness here, just id. My brother-in-law tells me he’s never seen so much crying in a sport. It’s true – kids wrestle with tears streaming down their faces, their entire bodies red with effort.

I watched as one kid was accidentally poked in the nose, and it was as if he’d been attacked by a gang of thugs. Then, two minutes later, he pinned another kid and his eyes were cold and concentrated.

The opportunity for analogy knocks incessantly. My nephew lost a match to a girl recently, and I thought well, it’s not the only time that will happen. He’s got a kind of zen sensibility about it, though. Before his match today he said, “I’ll probably lose,” then he grinned. While he wrestles, he’ll turn his lips in and gets a look on his face like Hm, so this is how it will go down. He seems game for the grapple but not crushed if he loses.

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