More Than a Dual Meet
When Mary Ann and I moved to Lake Norman just over a year ago, and we were, more or less, settled into our new home, she searched for a seller of her favorite cosmetic line. She told me how she found a long list of representatives that sold the cosmetics she preferred, and randomly picked one. After the initial phone call to the saleslady, Mary Ann was telling me how pleasant the woman was and what a great conversation that they had had. Then, her phone rang, and the merchant asked Mary Ann if I was the Roger Barbee who had wrestled at A.L. Brown High School. Telling her yes, she told Mary Ann that her husband had wrestled at Mooresville High School and had wrestled me. Pleased for the news, we four met for lunch, and Mike, her husband, and I have shared time since then because nothing compares to old wrestlers telling tales.
This week I learned that Mooresville was hosting a dual meet against cross-town rival Lake Norman. Since the son of a couple we go to church with would be competing, I wanted to attend. Also, I told Mike about the meet, and that I hoped it would be held in the old gymnasium at Mooresville where he and I had competed. Sadly, it was not, but was being held in the Magnolia Gym, the small and cozy one at the middle school. I was still excited, and Mike agreed to attend. The day of the match, I learned that the night was “Old Timers Night”, but I did not tell Mike for fear of his reaction.
The small gym was packed with fans, and several members of my church greeted me, a stranger to Mooresville High School wrestling: Alex kept the match clock; Roy photographed the action; Pastor greeted and encouraged all the wrestlers; Linda and Amy, the mother of the 119 pound competitor , watched each match intently; and Mike, the father of the 119 pound wrestler, shouted moves to every home competitor. My friend Mike met the head coach and others. The oldest “Old Timer,” he was introduced last, but his record was better than any other old timer. Sitting between the two Mikes, I heard both of them as the dual meet progressed. Mike the father shared information about the home team wrestlers, and my friend Mike and I were somewhat isolated, wrapped together in the memory of our high school wrestling. Because his memory of matches and results is keener than mine, I trust what he recounts, but I remember always dreading to wrestle him because of his fierceness. He was tough and determined, but always a good sport, on a wrestling mat and, as I discovered fifty years later, off one.
Most Mondays he and I share time by eating lunch or sharing time over a coffee, which he usually buys. We discuss religion, politics, family, and share personal history as he helps me in my wood shop, or as he gathers pine needles from our yard. I learned that he and I both grew up on the mill hill of our respective towns. We unknowingly shared while young wrestlers the want of that life. We don’t agree much politically, but our theologies are akin, and he who reads Greek, helps me in translations.
I cherish that we have come together all these years later-still competitors all these years after our best ones. And that is why I wished that the dual meet would have been held in the Mooresville High School old gym, the one where my buddy and I competed against each other. But, sitting with him in Magnolia Gym was almost as good because here we were once again sharing our beloved sport. And the memory of hearing my friend’s name called, and watching him walk onto the mat once more, is a special one.