Much has been written about the deep connection between our sense of smell and memory.
A whiff of perfume, the smell of newly mown grass or the aroma of freshly baked bread can send many of us on a cavalcade of favorite memories. Others can serve up a sense of revulsion all out of proportion to the event at hand.
Over the years I’ve come to think that very same sense of smell is integral to a successful wrestling room and a winning wrestling program.
Scoff if you must, but hear this idea out.
Walk into any high school wrestling room and, depending on what time of year it is, the first thing that hits you is a whiff of sweat. It may be mixed with disinfectant or, from time to time, the smell of a new coat of paint. But it’s there – faint at the beginning of a new season, the way it is this week, stronger and more pungent as the season rolls on.
It takes an incredible amount of hard work to produce enough sweat to leave that kind of residue, enough to make the smell linger despite all attempts to air things out.
And that’s a good thing.
Wrestling is perhaps the best sport when it comes to teaching young athletes the direct connection between dedicated hard work and the sweet smell of success. You truly get back out of this sport what you put into it.
It takes pushing your body harder than you’ve ever pushed it before. It takes a deep understanding between discomfort and pain, and between pain and injury.
It means coming to a complete understanding about your own body, how you fuel it properly and give it the amount of sleep it needs to operate a peak efficiency.
So when a young wrestler begins a workout session in a well-seasoned wrestling room, he (or she) is breathing in the hard work and dedication the wrestlers who went before them left behind. Match that sense memory with a wall of honor that lists the state champions that have peopled that same wrestling room and you have a locked-in inspiration.
The wrestling season is underway again, and the wealth of talent area schools have on hand each year is beginning that long, slow build toward season opening matches, prestigious tournaments and the voyage of self discovery every wrestler goes through with each new season.
The long hours to come, the endless wind sprints and the relentless skill training – sometimes in sauna-like conditions, it all follows in the footsteps of dedicated wrestlers that have followed that exact same schedule over the many previous years.
It’s hard to explain it all to someone who hasn’t had that smell fill their nostrils – and it’s hard to explain to family and friends when you come home from visiting a wrestling room and that smell has attached itself to your whole body – it’s not something to share in that way.
But for what it does and for who it’s there to inspire, it’s a powerful force.
I erred in this column last week.
I railed against the way the WIAA, the governing body for high school sports in Washington, scheduled Great Northern League rivals East Valley and West Valley to play each other in a first-round game of the state Class 2A girls soccer tournament.
For any number of reasons, I argued, that kind of scheduling was both unfair and flat-out wrong. I said such a draw wouldn’t have happened had coaches been in attendance to protest such a travesty.
For all sports other than basketball, no one is allowed to attend the sessions that produce state tournament brackets. While I believe it would be a good idea to have coaches there to protect their teams and to advocate for fair treatment for all, they are nevertheless not allowed and the WIAA asked that I make that clear.
I also said that the WIAA offices were still on the shores of Lake Sammamish, when in fact it moved its offices to Renton a while back.I regret the errors. Ultimately West Valley beat East Valley, 1-0, and West Valley went on to lose in the quarterfinals at Ephrata.
Both deserved better postseason treatment than they received.