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Beijing Olympics 2008

August 17, 2008

I watched the Women’s Freestyle Event on the live feeds last night. Irini Merlini of Ukraine went up against Clarrisa Chun, 48kg whatever that is in pounds, superfeather weight. I always considered wrestling girls to be the equivalent of giving up in the sport of wrestling. Wrestling is the hardest sport in the world, and has also been co-ed since Ancient Greece. There shouldn’t be girl and guy wrestlers, there should just be wrestlers, and if you can’t hack it with the best of the wrestlers, then you don’t deserve to be called the best of the wrestlers.

Last night, the Lightweights went toe-to-toe and fought like pro’s. They flowed and circled around each other, taking shots, landing them, missing them, lifting each other off the mat and slamming each other through the floor, all in the blink of an eye sometimes. When Japan defeated China on her home turf, she did a back-flip over the mats. They didn’t even look like women, they looked like…wrestlers, like Olympic Wrestlers.

The Girl Wrestlers looked like Gladiators, and there were even women from countries like Azerbaijan and Albania where women aren’t allowed to speak without a mans permission, muchless wrestle. These were women who had all come up against men, fought their way through men’s team lineups, against countries who most likely shunned them for their sport, and brought it to each other last night. Women who looked like the men, fought like the men, and “handled it like men.” That’s all I ever asked of you girls, that’s how you do it, the sport of wrestling has not been disgraced.

I watched the gold medal match and cried. I watched the medal ceremony because I felt like I owed it to the athletes, if no one is going to watch you win, did you really win? I had to turn it off after that though, I couldn’t handle it. It was 2005 when I was thrown off my high school team for missing one day of practice in 2 seasons, it was 2006 when I left Cerritos Wrestling to join the Army and lost the nerve. Now it’s another Olympic year and some people have wondered where I’ve been. What became of me?

I drop into an mma gym every once and a while thinking I can start fighting, but then I never come back because the coaches want me to fight girls. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m sexist if it’s possible to be sexist against your own sex, but I can’t seem to shake the mindset of how it was back in the wrestling room at high school, the feeling of my body moving faster and harder than I ever thought it could because I was going against people who were faster and harder than me. I miss that feeling, it felt like growing, it felt like I had super powers. I just don’t get that feeling against other girls, and training against guys to fight against girls feels like being short-changed. Also, after going hard out and wrestling live for hours upon hours just beating each other up, gender, race, religion, where you’re from, all of that dissappeared. Maybe a co-ed clause in sports would make me happy, all I really want to do is challenge up. I’ll wrestle girls for you if I can wrestle guys for me, but I’ve slowly come to accept the fact that I might not ever wrestle again, and I wake up crying sometimes from dreams. Once I slammed my head into my weightbench next to my bed because I’d been belly-down in my sleep and tried to stand up when my alarm clock went off, it sounded like a whistle I guess.

I didn’t get into the University of British Columbia (they wanted my high school transcripts), so I’ve tried to integrate myself into the workforce as best I can. My supervisor, no matter who he or she is, reminds me of my Team Captain and my Coach. Wrestling taught me to stay out of their way and if you have a problem, it’s your problem and people who have problems are incompetent, so I don’t go to my sup’s with problems, I just let them stew and blow over, getting me in trouble. I’ve been getting in a lot of trouble lately. I don’t know, maybe wrestling really ruined my life, I was a swimmer before I was a wrestler with a 3.00gpa. I never wonder where I’d be if I didn’t wrestle though, that takes away from wondering where I’d be if I could wrestle. It takes away from remembering wrestling, because I don’t know what I’m going to do when I forget.

When wrestling took itself out of my life, I felt like a failure. I quit school, I stopped seeing my friends, I shut myself off from the world and contemplated suicide. Now thinking back on it, I got into wrestling because of the training, I wanted to be strong, and only started wanting to compete after going to my first tournament and sitting on the bench. Since I’ve left school, I’ve been a firefighter, I’ve been a lifeguard, and I can walk alone at night.

My goal when I started wrestling: become strong.

I am strong.

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Thank You Sean

November 20, 2006

Dear Sean,

Thank you for being a good teammate, for getting me up those bleachers, and for not laughing my last day at Warren. But most of all, thank you for not judging me.

Nicole

I Was A Wrestler

September 27, 2006

Well, quit the team today. I fucking quit the team today. I had to, after talking with people who’d had herpes and with experts and getting an in-depth risk talk, I couldn’t take the chance. The fact that there’s a confirmed case of herpes in the league means that my chances of getting it would be 1 in10 per every match I wrestle, and…I just can’t take that chance.

Skin problems are a huge issue with wrestlers. Every season SOMEONE gets ringworm on EVERY team, its just a given. Impetaigo and eczema are common although I’ve never had them. They spread like wildfire in a room where you’re constantly rubbing up against other people’s sweat, and the fact that you can get skin Herpes (not the STD kind) from just touching someone who has it is enough motivation for me to get my priorities in order. I finally got rid of the ringworm I had on my left forarm. After two weeks of bleach and a hairdryer, I’m thinking I should have just used the Lamisil.

I talked to coach, he smiled when he saw me and we talked about it. It’s a disqualifying condition for the military, at least type 2 is. Type 1 i’m not sure about, but I still don’t want to have it regardless. Painful outbreaks with fever every month for the rest of my life and for everyone else I touch is not something I’m willing to put my family, my friends, or myself through. And besides, Brandon is still on the team, conditioning with us, and touching the mat with us.

I told him thank you for everything and for giving me the opportunity to be on the team and to wrestle, that it was a lot more than anyone has ever done for me. I said this team was the best group of guys I’ve been around and the best coaching staff I’ve ever come in contact with. Coach shook my hand and said that it sucks because I looked like I was having fun, and that he doesn’t care man, woman or child, as long as I was in there every day working hard…I was a wrestler in his book.
I was a Wrestler.

I’m still a wrestler I guess, sorta, I mean it’s not like I’m going to quit wrestling, just with that team in this league. Hopefully someday I’ll get to wrestle again, hopefully the next team I’m on will be as great of a team as this team was with people like Sean and Jareth and Bryan who are going to push me and pat me on the back when I’m working hard and tell me not to shoot for their right leg and then shoot for mine. Hopefully the next coach I have will be as great as Coach Garriot was and think that as long as I’m there doing the work I’m a wrestler. Maybe I can wrestle for the Army, or at the next college I’m at, assuming something like this doesn’t happen again. I’m still going to go help out at tournaments sometimes, I’m still working the Halloween Open with the rest of the unhired help.

Well heck this sucks. Don’t know what I’m going to do with this blog now. It was supposed to be one of those things that follows someone through their ups and downs and watches them finally suceed in the end or grow stronger or something dumb like that. I guess I was trying to send a message with my story or maybe inspire someone else or I dunno. Guess I was trying to make a point.

Aw screw it. Follow your dreams, they take you places. I think.

Brandon has Herpes

September 19, 2006

Brandon, our Heavyweight and Team Captain, got herpes this weekend at the Mt. SAC tournament. He came in today with red splotches of warts and sores all over his face. He was the guy that held the team together, the guy that threw parties and let guys stay at his house before matches, and now his wrestling career is over.

Mine could be over too. I hate saying that, but he didn’t get impetaigo or ringworm, he got HERPES! And herpes is lifelong, it doesn’t go away, ever. If I were to get herpes, it literally would be the end of the world. I would never be able to wrestle again, or do judo, I’d have to stop jiujitsu at the Y which would alienate me from the only friends I have and training with Peter would be out of the question. But that’s not even half of the reason why my life would be over…if I get herpes, so much for the military.

So maybe I’m being a little paranoid, and maybe I’m a heck of a hypochondriac, but herpes is a disqualifying condition for the military, and if I get DQ’d, the whole reason I got into football and wrestling and extreme sports will have been for nothing. I want to be a Diver in the Army, Dive school is harder than Ranger school. I love wrestling more than anything, it feels like who I am and it makes me special, but would I give my life to keep wrestling?

Wrestling is taboo for girls, its not the same as a girl saying she she’s a judoka or a jiujitsuka or even a submission grappler, when a girl says she’s a wrestler, she is business. Girl wrestlers are literally the toughest athletes in the world. I’m saying with absolute certainty that they are tougher than people who run ultramarathons, who play football or lacrosse, or who box and fight bare-knuckle. Female wrestlers are tough because unlike all the other sports where all you have to do is be strong, girl wrestlers aren’t welcome. The other sports are some of the toughest in the world, but it’s open to anyone brave enough to accept the challenge…girl wrestlers have to fight just for their right to accept the challenge in most cases. Maybe the people who do the Ecochallenge are on parr with girl wrestlers, but that’s just because that race in and of itself is unnatrual and unwelcoming.

Wrestling has made me a fighter, and it makes me special. I say I’m a wrestler and it automatically gets me respect among guys. Navy SEALs have given me props and the greatest fighters in the world have let me train with them. But respect is not the reason I wrestle. Far from it. I wrestle because I like it. It feels right. I feel like wrestling is where I belong, and no one can take that away from me. Even if they made girls wrestling illegal like it is in some states and in most of the world still today, I would still be a wrestler and I would still belong there. It doesn’t matter if I don’t go to the Olympics or to State or even if I lose more matches than I win, I’m still a wrestler and I can still fight. I love wrestling.

But wrestling is not what I want to do with my life. There’s very little that any wrestler can do with the sport of wrestling besides get a scholarship with it and quit. Swimming, at least you can be a lifeguard or a rescue diver or join the Coast Guard or the Navy SEALs, but as much as I love wrestling, I don’t know if I can risk my life over it. If I get herpes, I can’t work for the county, so so much for being a lifeguard. I can’t join the military, I couldn’t get on any other college team, I couldn’t work with animals because my skin condition would kill some species, and not to mention that my social life would be non-existent (as if it isn’t now).

But basically, I’m concidering quitting wrestlng because I’m scared? Brandon’s off the team! I’ve never wrestled him or even touched him. I could wrestle in sweats and wear layers of underarmour to tournaments, its not like I didn’t know about the risks when I joined the team. Though the odds of getting a condition increase dramatically when someone one the team has already had it, ultimately I’m thinking of quitting because I’m scared.

Mother Theresa kissed the wounds of leppers, and never got sick herself. She wasn’t afraid, fear shuts down the immune system and makes you suseptable to illness. In my life I thought I was just cursed with bad luck because every time something good starts to happen something bad always comes up and just fucks it up. I’ve realized that that’s just life.

If life were easy, everyone would do it.

Life is also dangerous and hard, and part of life being hard is not just accepting the challenge. I think if life were all about accepting challenges, it would be easy because it would follow the program, but I guess sometimes the program gets a little messed up. Sometimes life takes us to places where it’s not just our integrity on the line, or our pride or our namesake, sometimes there’s a lot more on the line. I have to decide whether what the risk of staying on the team, despite the fact that skin conditions among wrestlers spreads like wild fire, is worth the gain I would recieve from staying on the team and perservering.

I’m scared, I’ll admit, but I knew that other wrestlers got herpes, its just when it walked onto my team’s mat that I freaked. If someone would have said that someone over at Moorpark got herpes, I would have been at practice right now. I have no fear in the face of a challenge, but danger is something else. I’m going to the army to get shot at, that’s dangerous, that could end my life, but I think I’d rather end my life getting shot than getting herpes, I don’t know.

I have never run when something has gotten hard, but if I run every time something gets a little dangerous, I’ll be running from everything. There are people who claim to have cures for herpes, they’re in the process of sueing the Food and Drug Administration and the Medical Corporations. I have their contact information, and Coach gave me until tommorrow to make a decision.

I feel horrible for Brandon.

I Broke A Rule

September 18, 2006

I broke a rule

its a major social rule amongst athletes, but its much worse among guys.

I, a scrub, a walk-on, first year wrestler, told a State qualifier “good job.”

You just don’t do that. Its condecsending. When you tell someone better than you who is not your friend “good job,” it makes it seem like you think you’re in a position to tell him he did a good job….as if you know what a good job is….as if you know better than him.

All this after he came over to apologize for not shaking my hand after his match because he had a hurt shoulder. Shaking hands or a pat on the back is okay, but “good job” is not.

I said this about 2 weeks ago to the first guy who talked to me on the team. Before he knew I was a girl, he sat next to me at the all-athletes meeting in the gym, and after he found out I was a girl, he still paired up with me and drilled with me a little bit, it was never anything more than a little to begin with.

After I told him good job, we haven’t since made eye contact.

Mt. SAC Tournament

September 17, 2006

First tournament was today, I didn’t sleep a wink last night, even though I wasn’t wrestling…

Only like 8 guys on the team could wrestle because we could only find like 8 singlets! NONE of our stuff that we ordered came on time, no warmups, no headgear, no shoes, and 8 singlets from like 10 years ago that coach found in the back of the storage room!
Everyone met at like 5 in the morning to get on the bus. Most of the guys were cutting weight hard so they hadn’t eaten or drunk any water in like 5 days and were cranky and thristy and sleepy. 20 minutes on the road we were already there, waaay early. Jimmy, our 125lb guy, was ticked.

“See this is what happens when we get here early! Sit on a fucking bus!”

LOL. So the bus driver and the coaches get out and we’re all by ourselves, and a few of the guys decide to go push buttons in the drivers seat. One guy’s playing with the microphone, and another guy’s trying to lock the coaches out.

“You know what they say about people who press buttons,” I said.

“What do they say?”
“I don’t know.”

So weigh-in’s finally come and we are the most rag-tag team at this tournament! Everyone’s in matching warmups and and shoes and headgear and we’re all in shorts and different color tshirts, we might as well have been the rainbow team. We were going to put Cerritos Wrestling on a bunch of white t-shirts but we didn’t have enough t-shirts.

“Aight, Shane, Nicole, here are your jobs,” coach had to give the guys who weren’t wrestling jobs so that they could come to the tournament, “Shane, you’re the video guy. Nicole, remind me not to lose this medical bag!”

“Coach! Don’t lose the medical bag!”

“Thanks, but not right now! Good practice though.”

Eventually I ended up doing video anyway though because Shane did stats. Coach put Shane on stat’s because he just couldn’t bring himself to be that sexist as to put me on stats (lol). So I got the first duel, and third duel on tape (the second one I fell asleep…oops).

Dutsey, our 135lber, wrestled like a squirel on crank! I mean it was amazing watching the lightweights go at it, like they were doing flips in the air and they pull off hi-amp throws like nothing. Al, our 215 guy, is a lean mean wrestling machine and I think he’s done judo before seeing as he can hit an inside-thigh sweep on people.

Overall, we went 2-2 and practices are definately going to start getting harder. I had fun, now I’m going to take a shower and hit the hay, even though I didn’t wrestle I’ve been up all night and filming for 3 hours strait is easier said than done!

LOL, Wrestlers!

September 14, 2006

Oh gosh now that I’m officially on the team roster with my goofy team picture and everything, check out what Coach wrote about me as my self-description:

NIKKOL PEPAJ
Nikkol Pepaj YEAR: FRESHMAN
HS/COLLEGE: WARREN HIGH SCHOOL (2005)
HT: 6-0
WT: 150
MAJOR: BIOLOGY/JOURNALISM
Is looking to become the first woman to ever compete in wrestling at Cerritos College… Was a member of the Falcon swimming team last season… Named her high school’s Most Improved Wrestler as a senior… Also competed on the swimming team and was a member of the judo club… Most memorable moment is training for jujitsu under the legendary Gene LeBell and when she was able to get a semi-pro cage fighter to tap out on an arm bar… Father competed in swimming in high school, while her brother Jarrett (13) plays basketball… Is also working on a minor in zoology… Aspires to join the army and then become a journalist… Is a blue belt in jujitsu… Likes to draw and study art in her spare time… Nicknamed “Nik”… Has two other siblings – Anaya and Babette… Is the daughter of Vasel and Debi Pepaj… Born on June 5, 1987…..
Favorite Athlete: Royce Gracie Favorite Movie: “Unleashed”
Favorite Food: Pizza Favorite TV Show: “Ultimate Fighting”
Favorite Book” “Honor Harrington”