Passing the time By Richard Rockwell
Tick, tock, tick, tock.
While we are contiuning to be holed up in our homes, all we can hear is that same sound over and over. You can only binge watch so many shows or play so many video games before your brain says enough. Eventually every little sound goes on repeat.
For me, as I sit and wait for customers to come in, I pass the time by writing and eventually looking up my favorite matches over the years. I can replay every finals match I've been able to coach in my head, as well as any important matches my own kids competed in. Their first state championship and even their last. The ups and downs never escape me. I think back to the matches I lost myself all those years ago. The ones that got away. They changed me forever. Maybe for the better.
Then I start to remember the big matches for someone else, that I witnessed first hand. For me, the first big match I recall was Mike Pense of St Helens vs Frank Bashon of Ontario. One of my teammates was Mike's cousin and so we decided to go watch the state championships that season. Pense was the returning state champ and the jv heavyweight from St Helens, Kris Long, was the state runner up. Pense was a small heavyweight around 210 maybe 220. Long seemed like a giant to me and likely all of 275lbs. As we watched the matches, it eventually led to Pense vs Bashon.
Bashon I knew of due to Ontario being in our league. The previous season, our own heavyweight, Marco Reyes, had several battles with Bashon for the district title and eventually at the state tournament, with Reyes winning them all. This was a great feat for our program, as it was only the second year of our programs existence. Reyes was a football player that was convinced to wrestle for our new program, the year prior. He had zero background in wrestling, just like the rest of the program. We had been 2A/1A in our first season and got bumped up to 3A the following year, in what was the toughest league in the division. We had returning state team champs, MacHi and Nyssa both in our league, followed by an always tough Ontario. Top two qualified for state and we didn't have wrestle backs. Me, a pumy freshman who couldn't even make 2nd string to compete at the district tournament so I was regulated to the stands. It would end up being mostly a MacHi vs Nyssa dual in the finals. Reyes would be our only state qualifier that season, but was the district champ. He would finish 2-2 at state and just shy of placing, beating Bashon once more. Bashon would become a seasoned state wrestler for the following year and ready for the likes of Pense.
Pense and Bashon battled, with Pense coming out the victor, 5-2, but he didn't look himself according to my teammate. Back then, you could still manage to make your way to the floor as a spectator and we weaseled our way down to congratulate Pense on his victory. I still recall his comment to us, "I'd shake your hands but I just puked in it." We laughed. Pense had been sick and was just trying to get through the tournament in one piece. Eventually, Pense made his way to the championship finals and would wrestle his teammate, Long, for what was likely the 100th time. Pense would win 5-3 to capture his second state title. Bashon would end up in 6th place.
After that tournament, I was hooked. I had never imagined seeing kids battle the way they did even when sick. They were pushing themselves to the limits, jsut for a chance at some temporary glory on some shoddy old podium. A podium that so many before had stood on to get this little tiny piece of metal to possibly hang on their lettermans jacket for all to see. I had finally seen the point. It wasn't about the hardware. It wasn't even about the podium. It was about accomplishing something you had worked so hard for. Something that I had yet to do, but wanted more than ever.
What were the matches that inspired you? What were the matches that were most memorable for you? I can think of many more over the years. Now that we got nothing but time on our hands, I can write about them all to maybe help curb your wrestling fix over the next month or two.