At Saturday's Greencastle wrestling sectional, I saw a rather unfortunate event involving one of the athletes. Now, neither of the athletes involved in this particular bout were Putnam County kids, so I hope this doesn't touch a nerve with anyone.
I was watching one of the best championship matches of the entire day. There were two kids with excellent records going for their weight class championship, and obviously one of them would have to win.
But not to worry -- the top four out of sectional advance, so they were both already safely going to regional.
However, after a close decision, the losing athlete committed three sins no disciplined wrestler should commit. He first took off his headgear and threw it toward his coaches' chairs. He then pulled down the straps on his singlet long before he was off the mat.
And third -- and this was the most obvious to everyone -- he had to be told THREE TIMES by the referee to shake his opponent's hand. Even the third attempt was half-hearted, and you could tell the ref was none too happy.
After announcing the winner, the ref made a bold and surprising move. He walked over to the scorer's bench and declared the kid disqualified for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
Now, these infractions did not disqualify the young man from the championship bout alone, they disqualified him from the entire state tournament. It's like he never wrestled on Saturday and it also means he will not be wrestling in the regional, semi-state or state. Because of a few moments of unchecked anger, this kid's season came to a premature end.
I'd just like to say I applaud the official for making the decision he did. I was surprised at his harshness, but I don't disagree. In this job, I have the proximity to the floor to hear the conversations between officials, coaches and players. Although I will say that we have mostly well-behaved, mild-mannered kids participating in athletics, I still hear entirely too much, "Aw c'mon, ref!" and "That's a terrible call!"
I don't think there is any place for teenagers to act this way toward authority figures of any sort.
But I don't think the problem is just with the kids. After Saturday's "mishap," I saw the people surrounding the disqualified wrestler looking as if they'd been robbed of something. No one stepped up to tell him, "You had a chance to do something good and you blew it." That's what my parents and coaches would have told me in high school and would have been expected to learn something from it. I also would have been told I'd screwed up my chances for this year and would have to wait until next year.
But what do our athletes see us, the adults, doing? We're questioning everything officials do and insulting the decisions we don't like.
Sportsmanship doesn't stand a chance sometimes.
It is only a game and with that in mind, we all need to keep our actions in check better than we do.