Legless Wrestler


Every sport has its basics and in high school wrestling every wrestler is coached to control his/her own hips but also the hips of his/her opponent. Without that established control, wins will be limited. Thus, every wrestler drills to learn and establish and perfect hip control: To use his own hips for power in a move and to limit the power in the hips of every opponent. If the wrestlers are standing in the neutral position, the hips of an opponent are controlled by using hands, arms, and shoulders/chest. If the wrestlers are on the mat, the top wrestlers uses his weight to drive into the bottom wrestler’s legs so as to control the hips. If the top wrestlers shifts his force above the hips of the bottom wrestler that wrestler is more easily able to stand and score points by escaping. If the wrestler is on bottom on the mat then he will work to get his hips free of the top wrestler’s force. “Hip control” is a directive shouted out often by coaches during high school wrestling matches because the hips are the center of gravity for wrestlers and if a wrestler controls the opponent’s hips, he controls the opponent.

Some wrestlers become quite skilled in the neutral position and will work to keep scoring takedowns and releasing their opponents only to take them down again-give up a point but score 2. (Yes, like “catch and release” in fishing.) Other wrestlers opt to become “mat wrestlers” and work at perfecting moves from the top position in order to pin the opponent. No matter the choice, hip control is vital for success. Successful high school wrestlers work to perfect muscle memory in both the neutral and mat positions or sometimes just one, but it requires a great deal of work to achieve.

So, what does an accomplished high school wrestler do when the opponent comes to the neutral circle on his legless body? How does a wrestler approach an opponent who is no taller than his waist or even shorter? Has he drilled hours in the practice room against such opponents? Has he drilled to establish hip control over an opponent whose center of gravity is at the level of his shinbone? Has he drilled endlessly to learn how to take down an opponent whose center of gravity is much like a large ball on the mat?

This past weekend at the Virginia High School League wrestling tournament a fine,  determined, and talented young man won the class (large school) 6A 106 weight class. Kudos for him and his coaches. But I offer that his championship was not a just one.

Adonis Lattimore, with a record of 32-7 for the year,  won a state wrestling championship. Born without either leg, and only one finger on a hand, he did what every high school wrestler wants. Yes, he has overcome huge physical obstacles, and like all successful wrestlers, persisted. But he has a great advantage because of his trunk only body that prohibits opponents from being able to attack his center of gravity, his hips. Because Lattimore’s lack of legs an opponent is forced to attack his arms, chest, going to where Lattimore’s huge advantage lies. His upper body strength outweighs that of an opponent because he is allowed to wrestle in a weight class without legs, which accounts for about 15% of body weight for each leg. Do the math and determine in what weight class legless wrestlers should compete.

Wrestling is a sport that welcomes all levels and interests and skills. High school wrestling offers 14 weight classes in which athletes can compete: 106 up to 285. Wrestling welcomes blind wrestlers, ones who cannot hear or speak, girls who have no other option such as all-female competition, and able-bodied athletes. But they all must “make weight” in a class between 106-285. If the digital scale records that the wrestler is over the weight class, he or she does not wrestle.

I suggest that Adonis Lattimore does not “make weight” for the 106 class and must be disqualified.

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