by A. L., Westford, MA
You are frozen ... scared of what might happen if you do not concentrate. Afraid every match of the worst possible scenario. All that rests between you and the stone-cold ground is an inch of synthetic mat. A soft support the size of a classroom.
The mat is your only resting place in the harsh sport of wrestling. It is the only place to sleep before the match. The mat is the place men crack under extreme pressure, and men celebrate a great triumph. The mat is the place I feel separate from the stress of school and the pressure from my parents.
I cannot explain the comfort of a thing as simple as a mat to someone who does not wrestle. It is the feeling of safety that a child feels when with its mother. It is the lull before a great storm. Go to a match and observe each wrestler as he comes from the locker room and dips one toe onto the corner of the mat just to be sure it is there. One by one the wrestlers make a pilgrimage to this holy land to rest and forget.
The mat is the place I feel agility, balance. As if I can conquer anything, anyone. The mat is a truly different world. To a stranger of the sport, the mat looks strange, smells like drying glue and feels like a hard dull seat cushion. To the wrestler, the mat feels, smells and looks like a little bit of comfort.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.