Why I love… (real) wrestling

World high jump champion Jesse Williams (not pictured) loves nothing more than a double leg take down.


"I didn’t make the high school basketball team but I was in class with a wrestling coach who kept on saying I could be good at wrestling because I have the mentality and drive to be good at it.

"I love working hard and it is a sport where you can work really hard and get good at it. Honestly, of all the sports I’ve done, including athletics, it was my favourite sport to participate in.

"I like wrestling because it is a very manly sport and I enjoyed the camaraderie on the team. It wasn’t only my experiences on the mat that I enjoyed but all the trips we went on. The getting up early to events, the hell we went through, it really bonded us together as a team.

"On the track I get very fired up and I’m very competitive and I enjoyed wrestling for the same reason. Out on the wrestling mat there are no excuses either.

"I was pretty good, too. In my senior year I had a 38-2 winning record and I reached the state semi-finals. I only lost the semi-finals in overtime in a close match. After that match I actually cried – which I think was the last time I ever cried – because I knew wrestling was over for me and I was going into athletics.

"Some athletes are surprised when I say I was a wrestler because not many high jumpers are into wrestling. I don’t watch much wrestling but I have huge respect for the sport, although I couldn’t name many wrestlers. I watch the sport when it is on TV.

"I was really tall in my weight class. I don’t think I ever wrestled anyone who was taller than me. The double leg take down was my move. I loved picking guys up and taking them to the ground. It was fun.

"The Olympic high jump champion Ivan Ukhov is a different kind of body type to many high jumpers, he is tall but slightly stockier and I’m sure he could hold his own on the wrestling mat…”