It wasn’t just a sport: wrestling was a family

One athlete’s reaction to elimination of wrestling program


Michelle Liu

An illustrated box containing a medal, a team photo and standard wrestling gear. For the first time, the upper school will not have a wrestling team for its 2020 winter season.

by Eric Fang, Winged Post Editor-in-Chief

Kobe Howard (‘19) lay face down on the wrestling mat, his arm trapped behind his back by his opponent’s knee. I hovered above my seat, praying that he wouldn’t give up. “Throw him off your back,” I shouted. I knew how vulnerable Kobe felt. I remembered breaking my ankle in the middle of a match and pushing through to a victory, but no one knew how close I had been to giving up that day. “Grab his arm and throw him off your back,” I shouted. This time, Kobe arched his back upwards and rolled his opponent off his back. I sat down, feeling as if a weight had lifted off me as well.

Wrestling is often misconstrued as an individual sport. However, we all have a hand in each other’s improvement. Whether it’s giving our all at practice or cheering on teammates during their matches, team sports such as wrestling are built upon reciprocity—the idea that if one teammate benefits, all the others do as well. The hours of conditioning, the shared feelings of disappointment at a loss, the mutual moments of pure bliss at a win – these are what unite a team and inspire us to keep trying. 

For five of my middle and high school years, I had a family in my teammates and coaches, and an opportunity to develop my leadership, strength and character every day. Then last spring, I found out that the Harker wrestling program would be cut this school year. The reasons – not enough team members and the cutting of the middle school program a couple years prior. I was shocked. I had been to every wrestling senior night since seventh grade, and it hit me that I would never wrestle for Harker again, let alone have a senior night of my own. 

Most importantly, I realized that future athletes at Harker would never be able to experience the formative memories I have made as a Harker wrestler. While I can understand Harker’s choice to discontinue resources to a small program, I’m disappointed that the school hasn’t looked more into alternative ways to support team members in following their passions. Despite the program being cut, I know that I will always have the family I gained along the way, but new student-wrestlers will never have the chance.