HITTING THE MAT: The Making of A State Champ or At Least A Good Man! (Blog 9)

Blog 9

Preseason Week 9

            My wife and I are a little frustrated right now. When I feel like this, I try to remind myself that Dakota is still only 14-years old. And… it took me 48-years to become the man that I have slowly and sometimes painfully become today.

Progress is like a twister circling around and around. As we move forward with developing my son into a good man through doing something very difficult like wrestling and shooting for a state championship, his progress is going to be circular like a twister. Sometimes the winds of change will blow him forward into new successes, and other times it will circle him right back to where he was before. But, as long as we keep my son Dakota moving in the overall right direction, everything is going to be okay. However… on the flip side, there will be moments of frustration when he seems to be stepping backward.

Last Wednesday night I was so proud of Dakota for looking his wrestling coach in the eye, shaking his hand, and saying, “Thank you” like a real man at the end of his practice. And then this weekend he play-punches his sister in the gut harder than I would have liked to have seen. I snapped at him not to do that again. His mother jumped in, too. My wife, Dakota’s mom, complained that she has already told him not to do that.

Dakota looks at us confused and says he was just playing. He doesn’t seem to know why we’re giving him a hard time. I tell him that he is never to hit a girl or anyone in his family, playing or not. He’s frustrated and voicing his own opinion as he goes to his room to get away from us.

The back-talk or arguing that he didn’t do anything wrong is what really gets under our skin. Back in the day, our parents would have rained all hell down upon us if we back-talked or argued with them. I would have never voiced my opinion when I knew that my parents thought I was wrong.

I was afraid of my dad when I was a boy.  However, in contrast, though, I must admit that I do take a lot of joy and pride in knowing that my boy isn’t afraid of me. Check out the poem I wrote that was published on this push-pull dynamic between my son and me, and almost all fathers and sons: https://granddaddyssecrets.com/the-cyclical-father-son-storm/. Then also please come back to this article/blog.

Hey, it’s a terrible thing to live in fear. And that’s why I go the extra mile to make sure that my kids know I love them, will play with them, show patience with them, and will joke around with them while still offering the parental guidance that they need.

So, over the weekend, even though Dakota and I didn’t see eye to eye, I still spent some time with him working on his wrestling. However, he did have to wait some until after my younger daughters’ soccer games, my oldest daughter’s driving practice, and a few hours on one of my side jobs.

It was a busy weekend, but Dakota and I did manage to sneak in a little time together working on some foot sweeps, a defense to the cradle, and a quick cheap tilt that is usually good for a quick two points that leaves his opponent flat on his stomach where he is weak and can be better controlled, and attacked further by Dakota. Finally, I show him a limp arm out for when his opponent has a whizzer/overhook on him and is trying to crank him down to the mat like one of his opponents did a few times during his last practice.

Our Monday night 45-minute car ride is starting to become kind of typical now. We talked about life, being a real man, and school, of course. Dakota’s grades are pretty good, but I did receive an email this morning that his algebra grade dropped to a C-. Dakota says he knows where he messed up, and he will fix it. I’m good with that answer for now…

At practice, Coach John Knapp and Coach West show some pretty cool defensive moves to the switch, as well as some great go-behinds off of short hooks, and then a front headlock. This former 2X State Champion,  2X Junior Olympian, and 2X Junior Olympian wrestling coach, love watching and learning the finer details or nuances and subtleties of Coach Knapp’s techniques. After Coach Knapp explains them, they seem so simple to do while also making a move so much more effective.

My attention to practice is snatched away when I find myself on the phone talking to Scott Schulte the New York Times Bestselling Author of a Dan Gable book who lives in Utah. Scott tells me that he has been following my blog, which is this blog by the way. He has been studying the pictures I have put up there of my son Dakota. Scott believes that I should work cradles and leg-riding with Dakota due the way he is built. He also says he’s interested in co-authoring a wrestling book with me this summer based on this blog. That sounds awesome to me!

I say go bye to Scott Schulte as live wrestling begins. And believe it or not, Dakota gets the first takedown again, and even puts his opponent into a cradle. During this match, Dakota gets a few more takedowns and captures his opponent in a few more cradles in which he pins his opponent several times. I can’t help but wonder how the heck Scott Schulte knew that he’d probably be pretty good at cradles. In the end, Dakota does very well in his first six-minute match. He even uses the move I showed him the night before of a limp arm out to get out of a whizzer/overhook, and secure a takedown. And he even finally hits a zook that worked! And worked well, indeed!

For his second match, Dakota faces a tougher opponent. However, he once again gets the first takedown. But eventually gets reversed. Hit competitor then sinks a painfully deep half-nelson, but Dakota somehow fights it off. Next, the kid throws in legs on Dakota. Man! I have to teach Dakota some leg wrestling. I guess Scott Schulte was right here, too. Finally, the other wrestler catches Dakota in a cradle. Ah… I’ve got find some time to work with him on both the offensive and defensive moves around cradles.

For the third match, my 130-pound boy approaches a 160- pound boy. I’m a little nervous here because I know that sometimes injuries happen during moments like this one. I’m a bit relieved though when the boy says he’s too heavy for Dakota and begins to walk away. However, Dakota insist, and they end up wrestling anyway.

I watch anxiously and witness Dakota once again getting the first takedown and then actually pins the kid. Back on their feet, the bigger boy gets Dakota in a bear hug and muscles Dakota down on to his back. But Dakota refuses to be pinned and fights off his back. Dakota even reverses the boy and pins him instead.

Dakota finishes up practice with 110 push-ups and 40 pull-ups. We shake Coach Knapp’s hand and say goodbye as he asks me if I can get Dakota down to practice in November more than just two nights a week. I think this sounds awesome, but I don’t know how I’d do it with my hectic schedule. And to his credit, Coach Knapp knew this and was thinking out loud of possible ways for Dakota to get to practice on the nights I have other commitments. I’m grateful to have such a good old buddy, and now a great coach for my son.

On the way home, both Dakota and I spoke excitedly about this night’s practice and how much Dakota has improved in such a short time. Coming from a tough background myself, I tell Dakota that I must admit that I thought his life was way too easy for him to have this kind of mental toughness in him. But somehow he has that mental toughness, and he has a lot of it.

I also mention Coach Knapp’s offer to train him more nights a week, but Dakota surprises me a bit when he says that he is taking some pretty tough classes in school and Dakota doesn’t know how he’ll be able to keep up with his school work if we get home after 10:00 at night more than twice a week. I’m a bit caught off guard by Dakota’s statement and ability to compartmentalize his life at such a young age. I’m really impressed with his ability to quickly assess the new situation, and all the while, not forget about how important school is, as well as, how he has to do what he has to do to keep up with his challenging classes at school. I think I sense that good man inside of him is growing again.

Well, time sure flies and we’re once again back in the car on another Wednesday night heading to KT KIDZ in Rocky Hill to meet up with Coach Knapp and Coach West. In the car ride over Dakota mentions how he doesn’t like the fact that they only get gym twice a week in high school. I wholeheartedly agree with him and feel that kids should have gym class five days a week. I feel strongly about the old Greek values of mind and body. And studies in Texas has proven that when kids exercise they learn better.

While at practice, I have to participate in another phone conference for one of my side jobs. I watch from a distance as Coach West is teaching some defensive moves to a single leg where wraps the guy up like a pretzel in a move called a spladle. Next, Coach West shows some offensive moves off of the single leg. And then he finishes up the instruction part of the evening with a fireman’s series.

Live wrestling starts and the wrestlers are put into groups of three. Dakota gets the first takedown against both the first guy and then the second guy. However, the second guy is pretty good, and he recovers, gets back to his feet, and hits Dakota with a nice fireman’s carry that puts Dakota on his back where Dakota successfully fights off of it.

At this time I learn something very interesting from one of the assistant volunteer coaches named Coach Joe. He informs me that the numbers of wrestlers have gone down across the world and that the rise of the female wrestlers is what saved wrestling from being eliminated from the Olympics. As a history teacher, I can’t help but make the comparison or how our U.S. women played a vital role in WWII and might have saved us in that fight, too.

I’m grateful for what our women did back in WWII. However, I didn’t know about eh whole female Olympic wrestling thing, but thanks to Coach Joe, now I do. And I’m extremely thankful again for the role they played and their ability to fight that good fight that saved our Olympic Wrestling. Now we need more females to wrestle in the oldest and greatest sport mankind, and womankind has ever known.

Practice ends quickly. There wasn’t a lot of live wrestling tonight. Dakota and I stay a little extra to work a little bit on some cradles and leg wrestling. I feel bad I didn’t get to this sooner. But, regardless, it was kind of neat for me to have that individual time with Dakota on an actual wrestling mat instead of on the carpet floor in my upstairs bedroom.

The ride home was awesome! After Dakota and I stopped for gas again like we do every Monday and Wednesday night, we talked all the way home about wrestling. Come to think of it, even when I stopped to pump gas and I was standing outside the car, I opened Dakota’s door and talked to him more about some strategy on how to drop his hip level and split his opponent’s legs when he knocks his guy to his butt but the guy continues to hold on. I can’t help but sometimes feel excited like I’m a kid in a candy store when Dakota and I are driving home talking about wrestling the entire way and continuing to speak about wrestling even when I’m pumping gas…

We’re now another week closer to Dakota’s first high school wrestling season. I’m impressed with how far Dakota has come. And I feel grateful that on Day 1 of his regular high school wrestling season he is going to have a real fighting chance of defending himself. He is going to be able now to take his abilities to the next level thanks to his great attitude, myself finding a way to get him to his preseason wrestling practices, and the amazing and very effective coaching he is getting from Coach Knapp and Coach West, as well as all the other adults on the peripheral that have been taking an interest in Dakota and offered him advice and encouragement.

It really does take a village and a team to raise a child. And for many, many years I have been part of that village, and now I’m really enjoying and truly appreciate watching that village now at work with my son, Dakota. Way to go World! Way to go Team! And way to go KT KIDZ Wrestling!



Learn more about this book, A Sprint to the Top, that DAN GABLE endorsed:




Dan Gable Olympic Gold Medalist and Wrestler of the Century

Dan Blanchard, Teen Leadership, The Storm

Dan Blanchard is a best-selling author, and award-winning speaker,
and educator. www.DanBlanchard.net