We were circled up on the mat listening to Coach go over the scouting report for our match with South Central High. It felt so great to relax in the wrestling room because relaxation was so far from exhaustion, which was the order of things there. We lolled on each other like a den of rattlers in the warm sun. SC was tough in the lower weights in those days, and Damon Thuringer, "Sausage Man," our sophomore at 103 pounds, had an especially tough match.
Sausage was wrestling a kid named Kenuchi Mashamuri. Mash was a senior who had taken the state championship at both 119 and 112. Early in the season a
Spokane Daily Chronicle story quoted Mash as saying he was beginning to think seriously about college wrestling, so he thought he'd train real hard that season and drop down a weight where he could be more competitive. He was sincere. Mash was a very humble guy. He was also a monster, an arch teratoid. He looked about 30 years old, with his giant little body and his furry eyebrows and his cauliflower ears. Of course, Mash was undefeated.
Sausage was this baby-faced, downy-haired, flute-playing Hobbit. His record up to then was about 4-4. He was well-conditioned and fierce to a fault, but we all hoped that Sausage had made his peace with the cosmos. Coach made him captain for the week, and that helped Sausage's spirits. Coach always named the guy with the week's toughest match as the captain. He would announce it over the intercom on Monday so the whole school would know. The captain would then get lots of encouragement all week from kids in classes and in the halls. And when he'd lead us out on the mat to do our exercises before a match, people would ooh and ah and yell heartening sentiments because they'd know he was captain and that he was headed for hard times in a few minutes.
So we were circled up on the mat listening to Coach go over the scouting report, and Otto, our heavyweight, and I decided in a summit meeting of eyeballs and lettermen's leers to harass the Sausage Man, to tone down his hubris a little.
While Coach explained that Kuchera's man liked to work a fireman's carry right to a fast pin, Otto and I sneaked around the circle toward Sausage, who peered out from beneath his pile of wool blankets. Sausage had some trouble making weight. He was down from 125 as a cross-country man. He would spend his slack time doing push-ups and sit-ups in his rubber sweat suit under his bunch of blankets. You'd come off the mat after a drill, and off in a corner would be a boy-sized green heap with gold trim pumping furiously up and down.
Otto sneaked one way and I sneaked the other. Coach was talking about Romaine Lewis, SC's man at 154. He looked around for me, so I stopped my stealthy crawl and popped up behind Kenny Schmoozler, our man at 133.
"Lewis will take you down, you let yourself get weak!" Coach warned me with a yell. I was down from 177 and having a bad time holding my weight.
"I feel great, Coach," I said. "That Romaine Lettuce won't take me down. I'll dice him and slice him. I'll counsel him on the dangers of snorting hair straightener. His internal environment is polluted. Lettuce won't take me down!"
Coach covered his eyes. He always knew when the team was feeling right.
"Did you eat?" he growled.