The Nod And Hug

Excerpt from “Again”

There are 21 seconds left in Travis’s high school wrestling career.

In less than half a minute, Travis will either fulfill his goal and become a New York State Champion, or he will have something to gnaw at his athletic soul for the rest of life.

There have been only two occasions this year when Travis has been behind in the score at any point during a match.

One of them is right now.

A few seconds ago, Travis’s opponent, last year’s New York State Champion, took Travis down.

An occurrence that has happened only four times in last 50 matches in which Travis has wrestled.

Travis now trails by the score of 2-1.

There is a blood timeout that stops the action, stops the clock and sends each wrestler to their coaches in their corner.

I am holding my iPhone in my hand, Ustreaming the action to BettyJane, who is taking care of Jess back home.

Thank god for technology.

BettyJane can barely make out the images on the very grainy transmission, but this doesn’t bother her too much because she is elated to be able to watch Travis, live while she is home with Jess.

Experience has taught me that one of two scenarios will play out over the next 21 seconds.

The first scenario on the table is that the wrestler who is behind in the score, in this situation Travis, will feel like 21 seconds is not enough time to make anything happen. He will get frustrated and out of his frustration, he will either attempt an undisciplined move or will just collapse in defeat on the mat.

The second scenario is that the wrestler who is behind in the score will draw on every similar situation he has

experienced, learn from it and use what he has learned to overcome any and all obstacles, needing only 21 seconds to execute his plan.

By the way Travis leaves his corner, I will know which scenario will play out before it happens.

“Be the first one back to the circle,” I say to myself.

The referee stops the blood time out and blows his whistles for the wrestlers to come to the center of the mat.

“Be the first one back to the circle.”

“Be the first one back to the circle.”

To my elation, Travis jogs out of his corner and is the first wrestler back to the circle.

“He’s got this.”

“He’s got this,” I confidently repeat to myself over and over, not realizing that my voice is being broadcast to every friend and family member back home who has picked up the live Ustream broadcast.

“He’s got this.”

The referee summons Travis to get set on the bottom referee’s position in the center of the circle.

Travis sets himself up early and waits for his opponent to get on top of him.

“Trav, Trav!” Maverick calls out to try to get Trav’s attention.

Over six thousand people yelling in the stands.

The one voice that Travis hears is his brother Mavericks.

Travis looks up to the third row where his brother is sitting and slightly nods his head up and down, as if to say, “I got this.”

The whistle blows.

:21

:20

:19

:18

My hand remains calm – I am still streaming the video back home.

:09

:08

:07

:06

“He’s got this,” I calmly say again, ignoring the evaporating time.

With only 6 seconds left, Travis hits a standing switch, scores a two-point reversal and wins a New York State Wrestling Championship.

Instead of attempting to score one point to put the match into overtime, like 99% of anyone else would do, Travis decided to flip the script, take a pass on yelling uncle, and go for the win with everything on the line.

“That takes balls,” I say as Travis calmly walks over to his coaches and jumps into their arms.

A few seconds after being put back down on the ground by Coach Garone, Travis starts to put on his sweatshirt, and before it is halfway on, he starts to jog.

With a purpose.

As he is jogging through the ice rink, he is pulling down his sweatshirt.

It seems like as if he has to get somewhere.

He runs through a wrestler who tries to hug him in congratulations, the way Hank Aaron ran through the fan who was on the base path when he hit his 714th home run.

As Travis gets out of the rink, he hugs the outskirts of the railing and starts to run faster.

Along the way, there are hi-fives and back slaps from wrestlers that he has wrestled with over the years.

As he is running in our direction, I’m thinking that this is going to be a nice moment between Travis and his brother.

It is not.

It is with me.

Travis stops his run right in front of me, one row down.

He reaches up and hugs me.

Tight.

And he doesn’t let go.

“I ‘m proud of you,” I say in his ear, “You never gave up.”

“We did it,” he says to me and rests his ear on my shoulder.

In an instant, six years of pain and work became joy and ecstasy.

My brother Joe is all over both of our heads.

After a few moments, Travis releases his hug and then uses his sweatshirt to wipe his eyes.

It was one of the best moments of my life.


Read the Next Story – Wristband Or Hand Stamp?


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