from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

Entry #51: Strange Advantages, Part I: Wrestling

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Moving to the affluent suburb of Bellevue after my parents’ divorce, I was a lonely and poor son of immigrants among a sea of rich, white kids. We were living in the basement of a friend of a friend of my mother’s and the school administrators thought I couldn’t speak English so they stuck me in all remedial classes. (This happened every time I changed school districts.) The sixth grade was a difficult time for me and I only found solace in loose friendships with other outcasts and petty crime.

In the seventh grade, Shiraz, an Armenian kid who lived in the same shitty apartment complex, and Josh, the poorest white kid on the block, took me to wrestling practice. I went along because I had nothing better to do. Of course, my first day, the alpha white male Brent decided to pick on me but I won his respect when he couldn’t pin me. “The Worm,” they called me.

I learned quickly and ended up wrestling for four years until my sophomore year in high school when my growth had already been stunted and I’d developed a degree of cauliflower ear in both ears and I finally learned that nobody likes a wrestler unless you’re in the apple orchards of Walla Walla.

The one time my short stature helped me was in the Army. In boot camp, you’re arranged by height with the shorties in the back, and I was at the very end of the line. Being unable to speak Korean, it was helpful in that I was able to hide my inability and sneak out my notebook and follow along during that learning stage.

Another way wrestling helped me was in finding strength while being constantly dehydrated and starved. My stunted growth was in part due to weight training every day but also to a severe lack of nutrition during wrestling season. I was thirty pounds lighter back then despite not having grown since. During the season, we’d rarely eat or drink unless it was after weigh-in, spitting in a Coke can in class to lose water weight, and eventually I got used to the strenuous work-outs on little water or sustenance. I’d find strength when I thought there was no strength left in my body.

Being unable to eat seafood, I rarely ate more than rice and kimchi during my two years. In boot camp, water consumption is limited to what amounts to a Dixie cup’s worth during meals. To say it was tough is an understatement, but I was always able to find strength when I needed it. Not to say that I was able to do everything satisfactorily but I was able to stick with the program on nothing but a small amount of carbohydrates and very little nourishment.

If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t have wrestled but I don’t think the weak-willed kid that I was would have survived in a foreign army without it.

The least gay wrestling picture I could find.



Written by Young

September 6, 2012 at 8:11 pm

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