your kid does something that makes you awfully happy he's your kid. Such was the case last night.
JD and I had gone to Derek's high school wrestling match. It looked like any other team they'd faced except the little redheaded kid they had on their team. He was a bit shorter than the rest of them and seemed to stoop, but just as thick and well-built. You didn't really notice anything different with him until he took the mat with the rest of the team for warmups then you saw his wrinkled up face. With a slow shuffle and his back bent over, he began to slowly circle the mat. His feet were turned in and his hands were each in an gnarled grip, his face determined. His teammates sometimes jogged slowly behind him, but more often than not, hurried by him to the next lap. Not to be outdone, he followed the instructions and performed each exercise to the best of his abilities. It was obvious to us that he had cerebral palsy. JD and I quietly discussed how heavy he was and which of our team would "have" to wrestle this kid.
The weights and matches came and went. Eventually they came to 145 pounds. Derek ran up to the check-in table and gave us a knowing look and half-nod. Slowly after Derek, this boy also approached the table. They both wandered out to the mat, shook hands and we all waited. What would Derek do? What should he do? Obviously, Derek could easily beat him physically if he wrestled him even half-way, he may injure this boy. Should Derek let him win? Should he quickly pin him and just be done as to not do any damage? Before the match even started, the crowd on the other side of the gym was cheering this kid on. We half-heartedly cheered Derek on too on our side of the gym.
Within a few seconds, it was obvious what Derek had planned to do. He circled the kid and easily racked up a few points. Yes, that's what he'll do, we thought: pin him quick. Just when Derek turned him over, he let the kid "escape." This was followed by a lot of rolling around, escapes, instruction from the kid's coach and Derek allowing the match to go on, slowly, very slowly. Derek would easily move around and then suddenly drop, hands and feet sprawled and allowing the kid to make his moves. Derek would wriggle free, make a quick move and gently pick up the kid and place him in a pinning position. Over and over again. This continued for the first round. Then into the second round. Then into the third round. Each time the kid scored, the other team cheered for him and his teammates hollered his name.
At the end of the match, the score was 14-10. The ref raised Derek's hand as the winner and the kid, dripping sweat now and exhausted, shook Derek's hand--with his left hand since he didn't have mobility in his right. Both wrestlers went to the other corner to shake hands with the opposing coach. When Derek went to the corner, both coaches came out and met Derek and said something to him quietly.
There wasn't a dry eye in that gym when it was over. Derek made sure that the score was always a few points different so there was no real danger of him losing, but he showed genuine compassion and sportsmanship to another person and isn't that what sports is for, after all?
As I left, another mother said to me, "Aren't you glad he's yours?" I sure was.
P.S. On my way out of the gym, I recognized one of the opposing coaches. Ten years ago he was in our ward's bishopric! We had only lived there a year, so didn't expect him to remember us. Since Derek was only 4 when we moved, he didn't know who he was and asked whether I had a son wrestling that night. When I pointed to Derek he smiled and said, "I should have known it was an LDS kid. Doesn't that make it even more special?"