Thursday, 14 July 2016
PF tag

Franki and Mary Lee are hosting the Poetry Friday link-up this week. It’s at A Year of Reading, where they have a new book I’ve been moooning over.

Happy Poetry Friday!

On Sunday,  I had a chance to observe Olympian Jordan Burroughs working with high school wrestlers on Maryland’s national team. The team of about 60 teens will be competing in Fargo, North Dakota this weekend. It’s the freestyle wrestling national championships.

Although he gave it up after middle school, my son wrestled for many years. Here’s a poem I wrote when I was a mat-mom. In a way, it’s a found poem, a rap made up of the names of wrestling moves and the things coaches say to their athletes.

I hope you enjoy the sounds and rhythms of this poem, even if you don’t know wrestling terminology.

Tournament Rap

Wizzer. Cement mixer.
Lateral drop.

Cross-face him. Headlock in.
Base up, don’t stop.

Knees off the mat. Suck it back.
Break him down.

Tighten your grip. Wrist control.
Don’t reach ’round.

Don’t stop. Penetrate!
Get close, you’re too far.

Keep turning. Don’t stop now.
Sink the arm bar.

Get the pin. Get the win.
Take shot after shot.

Stay focused. Keep moving,
and don’t ever stop.


The top wrestler has control over her opponent, earning her two points for the take down.

22 responses to “Poetry Friday: Tournament Rap”

  1. Mary Lee Hahn says:

    Wrestling was a big deal in my small town in Colorado. Your poem makes me hear the echoing gym and the squeaking pounding sounds off the mats.

    • Laura says:

      Thanks, Mary Lee. I’m working on a wrestling novel right now. The sounds and language of the sport are very much on my mind.

  2. Tabatha says:

    I have never seen a wrestling match — this is all new to me! Enjoyed the interesting phrases & imagining what those directives mean 🙂

  3. I like your poem better than I like wrestling. It has great rhythm and music. I remember wrestling as a series of arhythmic thumps and shouts.

    Wrestling always reminds me of my stepbrother, who liked to wrestle, would pin me and wouldn’t let me up! Argh, still makes me grind my teeth. LOL

    • Laura Shovan says:

      We had a rule in our house, “No wrestling your sister.” Of course, the female wrestlers on the Maryland national team would say, “Why the heck not?”

  4. Tara Smith says:

    Wow…this is an awesome poem, Laura. Would you mind if I used this as a writing prompt with a student I’m working with this summer? He loves wrestling more than writing…but this poem will make him smile, and write!

  5. Bravo! Mat-mom……never heard that term before. I know JUST the mom & dad to share this with. They are going to LOVE it.

  6. Julieanne says:

    Funny how sports all have a language of their own. I had not heard the term “Mat Mom”. I was a swim mom for many years; I imagine the duties and emotions are similar! I love Tara’s idea to use this prompt for kids whose world are dominated by their sport.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      That’s so true, Julieanne. Each sport has its own vocabulary. I think swim and wrestling are similar because of the long days, waiting for your child’s very brief event or match.

  7. Molly Hogan says:

    I was thinking along the same lines as Julieanne–how fascinating it is that each sport has its own specialized vocabulary. Even though I’m not familiar with wrestling or it’s lingo, I thoroughly enjoyed the energy of this poem.

  8. Linda Baie says:

    The poem moves fast, just like wrestling. Neither of my children wrestled, but a nephew did, and you’ve brought back some of those memories, Laura. I was always in awe of this kind of “contact” sport.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      It is quite amazing to watch young wrestlers competing. The sport requires stamina and determination.

  9. Keri Collins Lewis says:

    I love the rhythm and non-stop action!

  10. Sally Murphy says:

    Great! i don’t think I’ve ever read a poem about wrestling before, so really enjoyed this one, which evoked a bout for me.

  11. I don’t know much about wrestling, but this poem brings that photo to life, Laura. As others have mentioned, this is a great mentor text for kids to write poems about their own sport passions. (Or other hobbies, for that matter!)

  12. You’ve captured the essence of this sport, Laura! I love the rhythm in your word choices. In college I was on the gymnastics team and we shared workout space with the wrestling team a few days a week. I heard many of those phrases echoing across the gym. Wrestlers were interesting (and stinky) gym partners. =)

  13. […] Thanks for all of your support during this book’s progress, Poetry Friday friends. It’s been two years since I first shared a poem from TAKEDOWN, which was not even a complete draft! You can read “Tournament Rap” here. […]

  14. Laura, I came to your poem with no knowledge of wrestling and found it really engaging with a snappy fast pace. I also find it fascinating to watch female wrestlers.

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Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan is the author of the award-winning middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Her second book, Takedown, is a Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way selection. Look for A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, in 2020. Laura is a poet-in-the-schools Maryland.

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