Here's your chance. You've been training all week for about 30 minutes of match time today. Five matches, about six minutes each give or take. Those six minutes though are the only six minutes you will care about. Even long after you've stopped, the injury this match might give you will haunt your dreams for years to come. Right now, the 6 minutes seem to be the longest six minutes you will ever experience, but in the future, they were too short. They don't last long enough.

Right now, you're remembering moves, shadowing either in real life or in your mind. You're keeping warm by jumping and moving so your muscles stay loose. Your singlet's on and your head gear is either by your side or already on your head. You've got your opponent locked in a Russian armbar to a fireman's carry to a bow and arrow cradle, pin. Start over. Duck under to a double leg, head and arm, pin. The moves you practiced, the words your coach thought you weren't listening to; they ring in your head. For others it would be sensory overload with the crowd cheering, people moving, six other matches going on. For you, this is Saturday, tournament day.

The whistle blows signaling that the match before you has just ended. You adjust what you need to as you jog up to the table, your name the only thing other than wrestling in your mind as you tell the score keepers that you're in fact the person that should be wrestling. After that, you are only a wrestler.

As you step onto that 2-4 inch thick piece of foam that had saved you countless times from breaking your head on the wooden basketball court below. As it gives under your shoes, you feel the security that the mat instills in your heart. The mat is your home, and your opponent is an intruder.

The referee stands in the center with red and green arm bands on and you head to your respective line. That's when you see your opponent and know they're thinking the same things you are. Shaking their hands, you know their eyes are on you. You hope they realize they're about to lose.

3 periods.

2 minutes each.

No time outs expect if you bleed.

Everyone's watching, waiting, expecting, but that stopped bothering you a long time ago. Now, all you focus on is creating that opening. Sizing him up to what move will work, how tall he is, if he seems to favor the left or right, if you can get lower than him. It's never as easy as it sounds, but you know you can do it.

The ref places his hand in between you both, the whistle poised in his mouth, backed at a safe distance to leave you both space when it starts. Even though there's so much noise, all you hear is the patient silence that comes before the match.

3

2

1

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