My oldest son just completed his second wrestling season. This year he was seven years old in an eight and under division. Since he's a summer birthday, he was almost two full years younger than some of his competition. They were, at least, all about the same size, within three pounds of each other.
E worked his booty off and won...
a whopping two matches. It was hard on his momma. Last year he was the big dog, a six year old in a six and under division, and he won several matches and came home with not only several medals, but a fastest pin (10 seconds!) trophy. This year, there were no medals. Not even a participation ribbon. He was sick for two tournaments that he had done well in in 2010 and was simply outmatched in several others.
E was able to pick up his only wins in a dual that was added to the schedule. The big bonus there is that it was the only time he was able to wrestle at home (he was sick for our tourney) and his some of his grandparents were able to watch.
As his mom, I so wanted my boy in the winner's bracket. It hurt my heart to watch him continually end up with his back to the mat and some other momma's son advancing on the right side of the bracket. I knew how hard he had worked, how many hours he and his daddy had spent on the floor of our living room going over wrestling moves. I'd seen them watching videos on technique and taken him to practice twice a week for three months. He deserved to win...at least his momma thought so.
But here's the thing about E: in his mind, he was winning. He'd set goals and was achieving some of them. He rarely got pinned. Sticking it out for the entire three minutes is a huge stinking deal. He fought incredibly hard to keep his shoulders off the mat and was usually successful. He had fun at every practice and tournament. He built relationships with his buddies and made new friends.
My proudest moments were actually watching him react after a loss. From the bleachers, I had seen many a losing wrestler burst into tears or refuse to shake hands with an opponent. E never did either of those things. Every single time he left the mat he displayed great sportsmanship. He was all smiles and able to tell me what he had done well and what he had learned from each match.
On Saturday, at his last tournament, he came home with a third place medal. He proudly showed it off to me, even placed it around my neck while he went to shower. He'd placed third in a three man bracket and couldn't have been happier.
This wrestling season was long and hard for me as a mom. But E taught me that it really isn't just about the destination, but it's the journey that matters. Meeting small goals, having fun and making friends is much, much more important than being first in everything. Dang, that kid's smart!