The Softer Side of a Rough Sport

Gabby Brinez-Pardo, Fine Arts Writer

Stepping into a gym with a crowd full of people, you finally reach the mat. You eye your opponent and everything melts away because it’s just you and them. Every move you make is crucial because you either end up pinned to the mat, or pinning your opponent down instead. Welcome to the world of wrestling.

In the coziness of the warm Jeletic home, Mauldin High wrestling coach and division one athlete, Rick Jeletic told me about wrestling and his personal thoughts and experiences with it. He was casual and relaxed in his work space, wearing a Virginia wrestling t-shirt, jeans, and a grey Clemson hat. Mauldin High senior, Ricky Jeletic (Mr. Jeletic’s son), also gave insight to the sport. Since he had to dress formally for a later engagement, the red head wore a black blazer, a light blue, long-sleeved, button-down shirt, white pants, and black shoes; somehow, he effortlessly seemed to balance looking urbane and at ease.

Like any sport, wrestling is hard work and requires dedication from its athletes. In a regular practice, wrestlers focus on technique and building endurance which requires a great deal of physical training and work. It’s intense. The intensity swells when taking into account one of the biggest components of wrestling: food consumption. When I asked Coach Jeletic how important food consumption is and what role it plays, he said, “It’s very important. It’s not to lose weight, it’s to maintain a proper weight so that you can compete at the highest level.” Ricky on the other hand laughed and said, “It’s less of dieting and more of just not eating.” Food consumption is important because wrestlers compete in tournaments based on their weight class.

The longer the interview went on, the more I was able to realize that there’s actually a softer, sweeter side to the rough sport of wrestling. I asked Ricky what his favorite thing about wrestling is and with a soft smile he said, “My favorite thing about wrestling is probably going to have to be after a tough match, getting my hand raised and just knowing that all the hard work that I’ve put in the practice room and on my own mats paid off; and looking up and seeing my teammates and my parents, and knowing that I made them proud.”

When I asked how wrestling has impacted Mr. Jeletic and why he does it he talked about the life lessons you take that stick with you throughout your entire life. He stated, “No one likes to practice, no one likes to work, but it [wrestling] gives you a mentality and the right mentality to succeed in life… Wrestling was my sport,” he said smiling.