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Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 10 years, 7 months ago

19 January 2005 PINNED by Alfred C. Martino, Harcourt, March 2005, ISBN: 0-15-205355-7


"Kenny stepped beside him. 'You ready?'

"Bobby nodded. 'If God came down to wrestle me today,' he said, 'I'd beat him.' "


Commack High School North (which eventually returned to its original name, Commack High School, when all the Baby Boomers graduated and the school district sold off the younger "Commack South" campus) is a long, sprawling suburban school. On the far west end of the building sit the music rooms and to the east, down curving halls, past the auditorium and the various hallways that shoot off perpendicular to the main drag, is the gymnasium.


I honestly cannot recall the mindset that caused me to join the Commack North freshman wrestling team. I'd never before been involved in organized sports of any sort. I had no friends who were wrestlers. But there I was in a rubber suit under a sweat suit, lifting weights, doing an insane number of repetitions of sit-ups and push ups and jumping jacks and bridges (where you're upside down on all fours, rolling your head on the mat from ear to ear and nose to forehead). After hours of such behavior, and after practicing actual wrestling moves and progressions, we'd meet back up with the upper classmen in that hallway that ran all the way from the music wing to the gymnasium, and we would run.


The co-captains of the varsity wrestling team were seniors who were keeping themselves in shape after completing their final season of high school football. One had been the middle linebacker. The other had played defensive end. Both would take their positions in the hallway at the back end of the running wrestlers. They would converse with each other as they ran. As soon as they caught up with the last guy in the pack they would take turns booting such person in the bottom until the straggler surged past some of his teammates. Then the co-captains would quickly catch up to the next so-called straggler...


" 'Wrestle!' the referee commanded.

"Ivan's drop step was blistering. Before the Hillsborough wrestler could react, Ivan was in on the single-leg, arms around his opponent's knee. Tight. He stepped up, ready to run the pike and finish off the takedown. Too fuckin' easy. And it was. Devastatingly so. Fight me...Fight me! but his opponent's breathing was already ragged.

"So Ivan loosened his grip. Slightly. Just enough to allow his opponent to wedge an arm underneath Ivan's armpit as a wizzer. Think ya got somethin'? Ivan thought, and he nearly smirked, sensing a sudden but shallow confidence in his opponent's movements. The Hillsborough wrestler, balancing on one leg, attempted to hip into Ivan, hoping to knock them both out of bounds so the referee would start them in the center circle again. His attempt was futile. Weak...Very weak...You gotta have more than that.

"Ivan allowed the charade to go on for a half minute, then he lost his patience. And exploded. Letting go of the leg and stepping into his opponent, with a fury. Wrapping both arms around his upper chest. Lifting. Kicking out his legs. Crashing him to the mat. Hearing him groan in pain.

" 'Takedown, Lennings!' the referee called out. 'Two points!'

"Ivan deftly switched to a headlock, inching his shoulders toward the mat. Come on, fight it...But the Hillsborough wrestler couldn't. He had nothing left in his arsenal.

"The referee blew the whistle, signaling the pin. The Lennings fans stomped the floorboards of the stands and yelled their appreciation. Ivan stood up, had his arm raised, then walked past [Coach] McClellen, past his teammates, nodding to Ellison, who bounced up and down on his feet as he waited for his 142-pound match to be announced over the PA system.

" 'Another victim,' Ellison said.

" 'First of many,' Ivan answered."


In two New Jersey towns at two different high schools, Ivan Korske and Bobby Zane begin their final seasons as high school wrestlers. In alternating chapters we get to know about complications in the lives, the loves, and the families, as well as the fears of these two young men who are clearly destined to meet at the season finale. And we know that only one will come away with the State championship for which both have worked so hard.


That both Ivan and Bobby are sympathetic teen characters adds tremendously to the building drama as each works his way through a season's worth of opponents, each on their way to their date in Jadwin Gym.


"He ripped off his comforter, sat up, and opened a window. Cold gusts blew over his dehydrated skin. It was a wonderful relief, the best he had felt all week. Bobby closed his eyes, leaning on the windowsill.

"It had been almost two days since he'd eaten. He was starving beyond hunger, and he couldn't remember the last time he'd gone to the bathroom. Maybe the night before yesterday."


The aspect of my one season of high school wrestling that my mother was still complaining about decades later was my following the accepted procedure of wrestling down: starving and dehydrating myself over that winter so that I could eliminate the "fat" and water weight from my 132-pound growing body in order to compete in the 122-pound weight class. To do so while trying to maintain honor roll grades and a minimal level of sanity was quite a personal challenge. As soon as the season was over I quickly developed a serious case of walking pneumonia.


What I wasn't dealing with during my own year of freshman wrestling was having to make the life-altering decisions about where I'd be going to school the next year. Ivan and Bobby are seniors who are dealing with college applications and serious relationships with girls, while the boys' parents have their own sets of expectations about their sons' futures.


" 'I did not hear you,' his father said.

"Ivan breathed in deeply, then shouted each word.

" 'I'll...be...there!'

"The walls pushed closer. The ceiling dropped lower. The room closed in."


Richie Partington




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