Friday, February 19, 2010

As The Minor Kings Fight For Their Thrones

As someone whose high school wrestling career could be described as unspectacular only if you had a brain cramp and forgot how to spell atrocious, tonight begins what is -annually - for me one of the truly great spectacles of high school sports. Tonight at gyms and field houses across the State of Concrete Gardens, high school wrestlers weighing anywhere from 103 to 285 pounds will begin their quest to get to Atlantic City.

It is a fact that everything dies. It is also a fact that at the two dozen sites statewide where District tournaments shall be contested this weekend, every kid in every weight class (there are fourteen of those) who fails to place first, second or third will see his wrestling season end not only short of the season's final Sunday but in its penultimate month to boot. All of them who started the season back in the late autumn understood that while of varying length (depending upon level of skill and level of competition) the odds of winning an individual state championship were against them. Nonetheless for each kid whose season ends tonight, tomorrow will seem a bit hollow. And for the kids whose careers may end tonight with the completion of their 12th grade campaigns, tomorrow will seem worse still.

State championships in wrestling in New Jersey are hard to come by. On the first Sunday of March only fourteen of them will be crowned. To put it in perspective, Eldrick has crowned more "other women" since saying "I do". (And for those of you who thought that the geniuses at NBC were inept only when it came to prime-time programming at 10:00 o'clock you will no doubt be pleased to know that while the Olympics being contested in the Pacific Time Zone (go to California and turn north) are in large part being shown on tape-delay, the Peacock Network will carry Woods' scripted mea culpa live.)

Margaret and I will make the short trip to South Plainfield tonight to root for Frank as he begins his third quest for a weekend in AC. He has spent the first two years of his high school career as the hunter - an underdog giving away at least a dozen pounds to every opponent. This year though he arrives at this point as the hunted - the #1 seed at his weight class. Frank is a junior, which means that this is his second to last go-round. And because he is the younger of two grappling Bozzomo boys, this is our second to last go-round as well. By early March next year Frank's scholastic wrestling career will be over. Regardless of how it plays out from this point forward, he has been - as his brother Joe was before him - incredibly easy to root for. And this weekend, scattered throughout the bleachers at South Plainfield High School there will be a number of us there doing precisely that.

There 'til the night is all done.


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