He steps out into the darkness and awakens his thirst for combat. His eyes come up to the platform and sweat drips down lightly from his head, streaking down his musculature and emanating his presence in the form of his scent. Headgear cups his beaten down ears, which are flat and featureless and puffy. His focus turns onto the light at the center. He is ready. He takes off his warm up clothing and reveals the dark blue singlet with red highlights. Knee pads comfortably conform around his knees. He jogs up, radiating confidence and a fierce will forged from his trials in both practice and home.
He does not think much about his opponent. He respectfully acknowledges him as a mirror image of himself, as a person that will provide a worthy challenge. He gives a firm handshake as is custom and the referee blows the whistle. Muscles twitch quickly and cheering can be heard. Some seconds pass by, and the cheering calms as the audience is intent to see what happens, giving their utmost respect. Hands fly quickly, feeling and trying to sense weakness. It is only the first period however, and no openings can be found. Both combatants are fresh and prepared. The first two minutes of the match ended before both of them knew it. A coin is tossed and it flips to red. Deferring the choice to the opponent, he prepares himself to ride out his opponent as would a cowboy do to a bull.
Second period begins with a sharp tweet. The opponent stands up and is brought down immediately. The real grind has begun as he works his hands around the wrists of his opponent. His control is asserted and he keeps him down. He constantly works with an intensity brought from years of training. Legs pump and he puts the pressure on to his opponent. Seconds start stretching as his fatigue builds from the struggles of his opponent. Keeping thoughts to a minimum, he continues to attack from the top. The referee ends the second period. No points have been scored. He notices a slight ache from his efforts, but it is nothing compared to the two hour grind he’d experience five times a week.
His choice. He readily chooses bottom after looking over at his coach. “This is what it comes down to,” he thought to himself. He is ready and comfortably situates himself on to his haunches, ready for the split second surge towards the escape. After being set, his opponent sets down and grabs his elbow with one hand and his stomach in the other. The anticipation of the start sets his limbs on fire with a crackling energy. Just as the whistle initiates the third period, his vitality sends him upward and he easily escapes. Quickly assessing a possible opening, he lowers himself and pushes forward into his opponent. His opponent reacts well, sprawling downward to shut him out. He circles out and as his opponent comes up, he circles inward and around his opponent’s leg, lifting it up and kicking the other out from under his opponent. He falls down onto the mat and the crowd roars its pleasure.He doesn’t notice however. He notices the split second opening that his opponent has created with his arm.
Knowing that it would not be there for long, he snakes his arm into the opening and sets himself perpendicular to his opponent. He drives forward and the noise only gets louder. His hand, continuing to constrict his opponent, wraps around his opponent’s headgear. His opponent gives a struggle and the referee goes prone and examines the distance between the shoulder blades and the mat. Closer, closer. His opponent starts arching his neck now, preventing the pin. But points are still being scored at this point. His opponent has a minute and thirty seconds to remain like this or to get off his back. He continues adjusting to his opponent. His opponent’s shoulder blades inch closer to the mat. He can feel his opponent’s breathing becoming more labored and heavy as the effort of staying off his back starts to take its toll. One minute left. It was all a matter of time.
Finally his opponent succumbs. The referee slips his hand under the shoulder blades to make sure, and he calls the pin. The crowd roars. He jumps up and pumps his fist into the air. It is unlike anything he’s ever experienced before. Winning a big tournament is one thing, but to be the best in the state is another. His hard work finally culminates into one experience that he will never forget. The cheering continues. His opponent is slow to get up, as he’s totally broken down. “He trained like crazy for this too,” he thought. He easily forgave his opponent for quickly slapping his hand and running off the center platform. The referee raises his hand as is custom. After the referee releases his grip, he keeps his hand up in the air and raises his other. He looks around and his eyes glaze over. A sudden sense of surreality enters his mind. “Have I really done this?” he asks himself. The disbelief continues, even as his coaches and teammates congratulate him. Elation continues to fill his body, but his mind still can’t process it, even as he goes home and his family celebrates with him.
The next day he wakes up at an ungodly hour. He immediately puts on some sweats and does fifty push-ups and fifty jack knives, all according to his routine. He picks himself up from the floor and goes into the kitchen. “Yeah,” he says to himself, “I still want more.”