Challenged by The Harbinger staff to try two unfamiliar sports, we, Anna and Jemima, attempted cheering and wrestling for the first time. We are self-proclaimed newbies when it comes to these sports, but instead of shying away we plucked up the courage and decided to give in to the peppiness and glorified playground scrapping. Though we both play sports, neither of us were quite ready for the bruises, sweat and risk of mat herpes.
Our first sport to try was cheer. We walked into the cafeteria for the JV/Freshmen practice naively thinking, “Cheerleading can’t be too hard. All they do is jump and yell, right?”
During the warm up, the leader of the stretches casually told the team to do the right, left and middle splits as if we were the super-stretchy Elastigirl from The Incredibles.” We were left glancing at each other, suddenly realizing what we’d gotten ourselves into.
But it’s not just the intense stretches that were hard; their simple stances are near impossible. We learned several arm positions, including the ‘high V’, in which we somehow had to have our thumbs facing out, our arms tilted forward at a 45 degree angle, our shoulders clenched back and our arms straight – all while maintaining a smile that hid the pain. We struggled a lot with this supposedly ‘basic’ move.
Ms. Gaunce, the head cheer coach, took us aside to learn chants along with motions. One of the chants we learned was Blue Black. It may have taken us around 14 tries, but we eventually got it.
At the end of practice, the freshmen ran over their stunts, and they trusted us (for some unknown reason) to join in. We lifted up a freshman flyer and were surprisingly good at getting her in the air, but the struggle came with the dismount. Turns out it’s harder than it looks to throw a person in the air and catch them.
It is safe to say that cheer was not our forté. We had a lot of fun but with the serious lack of flexibility and basic coordination, neither of us came out feeling like we had found a new talent. We decided that maybe wrestling was more our style.
At 6:45 a.m. on a weekend, when we should have been sleeping in, we were instead walking into school, anxious and unprepared for what lay ahead of us at wrestling practice.
Varsity wrestling coach Lucas Baker told us that because the team is at the end of an intense season, we could sit out when anything felt too difficult. We then made a pact with ourselves to at least try whatever they threw at us, no matter how terrible it was.
And some of it was pretty terrible.
We thought it was ironic that the wrestling team does more tumbling than the cheerleaders – cartwheels, forward rolls, round-offs and various handsprings. The stretches were the most terrifying, though.
One in particular was a bridge where you put your head on the ground and bend your neck as far as it will go before it snaps, then rotate your body around your head. They call it ‘nexorcism.’ It looked brutal and felt brutal and supposedly strengthened your neck – but we were skeptical about this.
Later, Coach Baker instructed freshman Billy Ruttan and senior Mike Bamford to work on some basic moves with us. We tried to do everything they told us; however half our mind was focusing on not crushing Ruttan. It was also hard to keep a straight face when our heads were on his butt, and we knew we were being photographed.
When the boys started wrestling each other, we continued working on the basic moves we had tried earlier. Once we were at the point where we could complete a move, we tried live wrestling – though I, Anna, thought I won, technically neither of us succeeded in taking the other down.
To finish the practice with a bang, we were all lined up along the wall and put into teams. Friday was game day – the best part of the wrestling week, according to the team. The teams were shirts vs. skins (we were shirts), and the game was basically rugby on your knees. We found ourselves being goalies, but honestly we were so terrified by the 30 shirtless wrestlers charging at us that we didn’t do a great job. However, the final score ended up being a not-so-shameful 4-3 loss, which we were both very surprised by.
After practice, some of the team mentioned that they were in need of a varsity 120 lb wrestler and wanted to know if we were interested. Yeah, it was probably a joke, but we were secretly flattered they would’ve even joked about one of us as a varsity wrestler.
We can safely say that both trainings were harder than we had expected. Neither of us found that cheer was our calling but who knows – maybe next year the wrestling team will have a new member.
Photos by: Morgan Browning