Want to Wrestle?

Photography by Michael Oelofse

Picture this. A scrawny maths nerd, who was picked on in school for being ‘soft’ and found solice in drawing pictures of characters from his favourite animated shows.

In primary school I was always last on every athletics and sports team. I couldn’t even master the monkey bars. What an embarrassment. I was the son of a triathlete whose trophies and medals sat above our homeware cabinet.

Then I found something I liked. Tae Kwon Do. At the age of 15, I went in a few tournaments and even won gold, but then an injury happened and it was all over.

Cut forward 20 years and I would be in neck deep in a long term relationship, overweight enough to matter, and without any real hobbies.

One Mardi Gras Fair Day, I took a stab at something. I broke away from my group that was looking at travel stalls and went into the sporting precinct. I signed up to tennis and then went straight to the Self-Defence workshops. I asked them about what they taught but they did a mixture of martial arts without grading and I wanted a style I could focus and apply myself to.

Next door was the Sydney Silverbacks Wrestling Club (follow their instagram @sydneysilverbacks) and I thought I’d give it a go. To be honest I thought I would get my arse handed to me but I decided to prove myself wrong.

I got my arse handed to me. Wrestling is hard work and I wasn’t sure I could keep up having sore shoulders and not serving properly in tennis. I gave it a few months and then gave up by July 2016.

Wrestling in my Sydney Silverbacks singlet

Towards the end of 2016 I tried again. Same drill. Couldn’t work it out and wasn’t nearly fit enough. By April 2017 I had given up again and my partner at the time and I planned to move to Melbourne. We broke up on arrival and I was in a new city without any support network.

In September 2017 I travelled to Sydney where I attended a Sydney Silverbacks trivia fundraiser. The president at the time cuddled me and said ‘join the Melbourne Wranglers. They’ll look after you.’ By October 2017 I was a Wrangler (follow the Melbourne Wranglers on instagram @melbournewranglers). I decided this would be it. I was going to make a real effort. Every week the friendships got stronger and I was determined to train harder and harder.

Every week I came back to see my new friends and every week I trained harder to prove I was good enough to earn their respect. This was my growth during 2018.

In 2019 I would compete in the Emerald City Tournament (for the second time) and win bronze. 2 out of 4 matches won and a pin in my first match! I was so proud. Not because I got a bronze. But because I did myself proud!

Proud of my performance in Sydney

Last June 2019 I was fortunate enough to travel to an international wrestling camp in Berlin. The guys there called me Mr Screw Driver because of how often and easily I executed a leg lace.

I made some great friends in Europe who would become my international wrestling family. I look forward to going back when the time is right and will train hard for the Gay Games 2022 in Hong Kong.

The lesson I’ve learned is a life changing one. I am a decent wrestler because I choose to be. I try and I thrive on learning, not succeeding.

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Note: The Melbourne Wranglers and the Sydney Silverbacks are DGS wrestling clubs which means they promote the inclusion of diverse gender and sexuality.

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Published by changeofheart82

The Phoenix is a symbol of strength and renewal. My tattoo is to remind me to shine as bright as flames flying through the air, and to remember that no matter how bad things get, I will rise from the darkness transformed and better.

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