Lincoln High Wrestling Team, Portland 1974
It's the toughest sport I've ever competed in, and I guess you could say it was my first martial art. This was back in the day when students died fasting and sweating trying to make weight. I remember going entire school days only eating one orange. Of course, that diet went out the door when we started drinking Beer after school.
In the picture above, you see me (with the blue arrow) weighing in at 136 pounds. As I grew, I went up weight classes; 157, 178. - As I said, we started drinking Beer.
The adults you see at each end of the bottom row are our coaches. On the left in the free-style uniform is Don Austin. Mr. Austin had a hot girlfriend and walked around the halls of the school playing a Banjo. Man, we thought he was cool.
One day Mr. Austin cornered some of us and said if we didn't quit drinking Beer we'd be kicked off the team. We said if he did that, he wouldn't have a team. So we stayed and kept drinking Beer.
On the right in the white sweatpants is Will Nettles. Mr. Nettles was the most athletic coach I had, and he was incredibly strong. One day in the cafeteria, Mr. Nettles was on duty monitoring the students. He had come over to our table and asked us to quit doing something, like writing on the tables or being loud. Being the 15 year-old smart-ass that I was, I mouthed off to him thinking I was funny. Mr. Nettles very quietly whispered into my ear that he'd see me in wrestling practice.
That afternoon, we were going through warm-ups and Mr, Nettles came in late. He pointed to me and ordered me into the mat room attached to the main room. He slammed the metal door behind us. For a good fifteen minutes, Mr. Nettles did everything that was legally possible to beat up a fifteen year-old. I got the living shit slammed out of me. The team in the next room could hear me bouncing off the walls.
At the end, Mr. Nettles let us out of the room. The team stood looking in awe. I dragged myself in, resumed practice with the guys and took the beating like a man should. I figured it was over, but oh how wrong I was.
The next day, my English teacher Mr. Johnsrud came into wrestling practice. He was a huge Norwegian dude that played Rugby. But that day, he was wearing a free-style wrestling uniform. He wasn't even one of our coaches.
Well, you can guess what happened. He opened the heavy metal door to the mat room and tossed me in. It was another legal beating. I had begun to figure it out; these guys had conspired to teach me not to be such a smart-ass. I think Mr. Johnsrud's beating was even worse, because he wasn't the technician that Mr. Nettles was. Just body slam after body slam.
And you know what?
That's the way it should be. A hundred years ago, I would have been on a cattle drive or a ship at sea. If I smarted off, the older cowboys or sailors would have kicked my ass and that would have been that. Guys can grow up with that kind of reinforcement.
It's not that I support beating kids at school, but a few of them could learn from it. I understand society's just principles, but sometimes the law of the jungle makes a deep impression.
I grew up faster because my coaches cared about me and wanted me to get back on track, and I love and respect them for it.