By Maria Odenbaugh
I wrestled for three years. It was my life throughout high school. It set me up for the world after high school.
I gave my blood, sweat and tears for years just to get beat up every weekend and starve myself for a week to make weight, still, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.
It shaped me.
I started wrestling when I was 15 and just about two years ago I overcame feeling guilty for drinking water.
No matter what I ate or drank I could not help but think about how many grams I was putting into my body. I kept my weight constant for the most part but not because I thought I needed to for looks.
It was because I wanted to win.
All the restrictions that were put on myself was all because that’s what my game needed.
I wanted to be the best I could so I continued to eat three small meals a day just to sweat it out during practice.
If you have ever met a wrestler or been in a wrestling room you’ve seen these athletes who would get beat up physically and mentally. Yet, when I left the environment I was automatically filled with gratification.
With every bruise, fat lip or bloody nose, swollen knee or hungry belly, we loved it. I loved it.
I love the sport. I do. But it always weighed on me mentally, even if it was subconscious. After I graduated it took me a long time to see food without my weight in mind.
Wrestling made me look at food differently. It’s frustrating that I had a weird relationship with it. And still I will always praise the sport. I praise it because the feeling of winning a match made all the sacrifices and restrictions worth it.
The love-hate relationship I have with the sport is unmatched. But all that pain was worth it because it taught me that sacrifices and restrictions are crucial.
Always having to weigh my food the nights before tournaments, going home with clothes drenched in sweat and the early morning tournaments were key things I remember from my seasons.
Since I could remember I was surrounded by the wrestling lifestyle. My dad, uncles and brothers all wrestled. I remember being ten years old and listening to my dad and multiple coaches yell, “Shoot!” at the top of their lungs.
When I decided my freshmen year I would join the team I surprised myself.
Despite being surrounded by that lifestyle I never saw myself becoming part of the team. Looking back I never realized there was equal opportunity to feel the pain and gratification from wrestling.
Being a girl in wrestling was the best thing I could have done.
I was a girl in a male dominated sport and it was scary.
It gave me confidence to compete against teenage boys who thought they were the, “macho man,” of the sport is equivalent to having enough confidence going into a big job interview.
After every match I won, every practice and every successful weigh in I was filled with satisfaction. An ironic satisfaction.
The love and praise I hold for this sport is extremely ironic.
I put myself through mental and physical pain to win.
I was lucky enough I was a part of a team and family that also held the same regards as me for the sport.
We would wrap whoever had to cut weight with blankets and jackets in the corner of the heated room. We became tougher through the pain, sweat and tears, literally. Those memories represent the loyalty and dedication wrestling took.
At the end of the day I am glad I was a young girl immersed in the wrestling world. A girl in a hurtful, food restricted, draining sport, eventually loved it and learned from it.
I consider myself lucky I got to experience all the hardships of the sport.