|Posted by Anthony Sansonetti on September 24, 2015 at 1:15 AM|
Pro wrestling, pain, and signs....
As I have mentioned in previous articles, I was dealing with a hip injury and contemplating retiring from competition in early 2014. There I was in May with my hip getting worse day by day, even with rest and medicine. I remember one afternoon I went food shopping, I was walking through the parking lot and my hip/leg just gave out and I was on the concrete. I was able to struggle back to my feet somehow and managed to walk with a shopping cart to keep me from falling again. I was really worried because there was no warning, my leg just gave out, and I was scared it would happen again. Over the next few weeks I fell downstairs, upstairs, in the shower, on the mats in training, in the kitchen...yeah, I fell just about everywhere I went! Competition is now out of the question! I just want to be able to walk ok again and maybe to be able to train. I was becoming depressed due to lack of exercise, I felt like an old horse with a lame leg, and thought that maybe someone should just come and put me out of my misery! Weeks of unrelenting pain went by and I was way too proud and a little too stupid to get myself back to the Dr. What happened next was a sign in the form of a call that came out of nowhere and that I didn't expect......
I consider myself to be a rational and intelligent person, but sometimes I feel a 'sign' appears, and I throw logic and reason out of the window, and follow my instincts, like I am drawn to do something. A short back story of an example of this, back in 2010 I was asked to compete in the British Sambo Championships. I had not made up my mind on whether i would compete or not, and i was weighing the pros and cons, especially as no american had ever won a gold medal in Sambo at the British Open. My good friend Rob stopped by the gym as training was starting one night. He asked me if I was going to go and do the British tournament and i told him I didn't make up my mind yet. I told him i was waiting for a 'sign'.... just as i said that, at the exact same time, I turned on the radio and...... "London Calling" by 'the Clash' was playing. That was my sign! I decided i was going and immediately called the US team coach to inform him. I came back with 2 medals in 2 different divisions, Gold and Silver. i believe in signs!
Back to 2014, I'm injured, limping, falling, feeling sorry for myself like a big baby. I remember the moment, I was sitting there in horrible pain, and the phone rings....'unknown number'. I usually don't answer unknown numbers, but I was doing absolutely nothing, and I had a strong feeling I should answer the call.
"hello" I said. "Anthony Sansonetti? hi it's Dan Kanagie From the North American Catch Wrestling Association". "Hey Dan, How are you?" I had competed in Dan's organization's catch wrestling championship in 2013 and won 1st place in the Open weight division, becoming the East Coast Champion. "I'm good Anthony, the reason I'm calling is that you won the East Coast Championship, and we have a guy in San Diego that won the West Coast championships twice. We would like to unify the title for a North American Heavyweight Champion, the first time in 100 years." I replied "sounds interesting so far Dan" thinking to myself...how can I do this?...I can't even walk!....I'm going to have to tell him no.... Then Dan said "we want to do it in NJ, August 30th, in the humid summer heat, in a warehouse with no air conditioning. the match will be three, 15 minute rounds, winner must win 2 of 3 rounds, either by pin or submission." I said 'Dan, that sounds pretty good" again thinking....I can't do this...I'm done!... old!....broken and lame...go hide under a rock and die....but don't get invloved in this...you can't even train!..... "Dan, who is the opponent?" Dan replied " A guy names Luis Ojeda, he's a wrestling coach in the San Diego area, a catch wrestling instructor, he's also competed in some other forms of wrestling like swingen (swiss wrestling), and some other things, he's 6'4 and will probably have to cut weight because he won't be able to come in over 225 lbs" ......6'4? cut weight to 225lbs? i'm 5'10 and 205 lbs without cutting weight!....and what the hell is swingen??.....just tell him noooooo!!!!!....
I said "Well, Dan, I am intruged, and it sounds pretty awesome...." "oh" Dan interrupted.... "I forgot to mention that there will be a $1000 prize purse split 70/30 to the winner and loser. We want to make it a real pro wrestling championship, in a wrestling ring, a non-worked (scripted) match that they used to do before pro wrestling became a show. Do you have an interest in doing the match? Do you need a couple od days to decide?". "No, Dan....I don't need any time to decide. I'm in. Let's do it!". my thoughts.....what?!?...you can't do this!...your leg! Your hip!....you haven't bee training...you will get hurt!....Shhhhhhh!!!!!! I am a martial artist... a warrior..... I have dedicated my entire life to this craft..... I believe in myself! My mind will lead, my body must follow! I will fall 7 times....to rise 8....Get hurt!? I am hurt! If I die, let it be in the ring chasing a dream, pursuing greatness! Not withering away feeling sorry for myself. Rise!!!!!!!!!
Maybe a little dramatic, but it was the catalyst I needed to get up and get my health in order. I needed a mission to set my mind on. This was going to be a very difficult task with my pride and reputation on the line.
The Match, toughness, and inner strength
I got myself to the Dr ASAP. MRI, Xray, and then hip injectons. The injection was supposed to take a few days to begin working. 7 days later I had no change. I was in horrible pain and worried that the match would not happen. On the 8th day, massive relief in my hip! A few days later and i was 90% better. the injection, if it was to work, could last up to 6 months. i started to train as much as possible. I had to prepare to do 3, 15 minute rounds with 1 minute break between rounds. I didn't think the rounds would last more than 5 minutes without a pin or submission. in catch wrestling yuo can win by 3 second pin if you pin both of your opponents shoulders to the mat. I felt i had the submission advantage and that Luis migth have the pinning advantage. In any case iw as training for the longest possible outcome. i was wrestling 15 minute rounds with a fresh opponent every 5 minutes. my conditioning was at an all time high by mid august, I felt like a machine that did not tire out. i was ready!
On August 30th, 2014, in a hot sweaty gym in Lawrenceville, NJ, I wrestled Luis Ojeda for the North American heavyweight Catch Wrestling title. I weighed in at 205 lbs, Luis Ojeda at 225 lbs which was the max he could weigh in. There was a few hours between weigh ins and match time, so he probably rehydrated back to 230 lbs or 235 lbs. I was giving up at least 25 lbs and 6 inches in height, my 5'10 to his 6'4. Luis Ojeda is a pretty big dude, he exudes confidence, and you can tell by the look in his eyes that he is a tough guy, not in the tattoed tapout wearing way (no offense to tapout and tats!) , well just look at his mugshot in the poster above! I also believe in myself and have a pretty good game face. I don't get nervous or scared when i compete, i get excited! No place else I would rather be!!!!
The match starts, Luis is taller and stands very upright, almost daring me to shoot in for his legs. I refuse, although smaller than him, I do have a very strong grip and strong forearms. i decide to wrestle with him standing for control of the neck, underhook and overhooks. my plan is that being bigger and maybe not used to NJ humidity, that he will get tired if I make him work faster than he wants. Within 2 minutes we are completely covered in sweat, and gripping is almost impossible. We hit the ground and I defend from bottom turtle position. Luis tries a few turnovers, but I defend well. he tries a few nasty cross faces ( if you don't know what that is, turn your chin to touch your shoulder as fast as you possibly can, repeat every 10 seconds ) A few times he kneels on my achilles tendon to set up a leglock, but I adjust. he is cautious to try and take my back for the choke, he seems to be content riding (keeping his weight on my back) and waiting for me to get frustrated and make a mistake. Somehow 15 minutes goes by and neither of us has a pin or submission, round 1 draw. I am 100% recovered after the 1 minute break, I feel if i keep him active he will tire. I have to avoid being in the bottom turtle position....he is able to rest there and i don't want to carry his weight on my hip/back.
Round 2. We upper body wrestle pushing each other all over the ring. At one point Luis has a bodylock while i'm trapped in the corner, i am certail my spine is going to crack, but i calmly defend and adjust. My spine stays intact. i make a mistake and am caught in the bottom turtle position. minutes go by....Luis smashes me with a crossface, almost like a strike/punch....he apologizes... i say "sorry? don't be sorry! i like it! That's all you got?" that leads to a series of cross faces but I keep laughing them off. I think he is getting frustrated. I am stuck in bottom turtle....too many minutes down here, at least 8 minutes with him riding, my back is going numb from his weight, between the crossfaces and kneeling on my achilles he is not letting me rest, i'm constantly breaking his grip or defending something. i'm playing it cool.....but I'm frustrated...but I sense he is too. Round 2 ends as a draw! last round detemines a winner, must get a pin or submission.
Round 3. In between rounds I look over and smile at him. He is more tired. My lungs feel good but my grip is shot from handfighting with him. My back and hips are numb. I still feel more ready for round 3 than him. I try to attack harder for control of his neck or an arm. massive amount of sweat. he is taller and heavier, I try to push the pace but he knows what he is doing and I am forced to play his slower game. I don't remeber how or what, but yet again i end up in bottom turtle. More of the same, crossfaces, turnover attempts, kneeling on my achilles, I try to create scrambles to reverse without getting pinned, but he moves just enough to keep me in bottom turtle. It's torture. I have lost contact with my body, i can't explain it any better than that, everything was telling me to quit...demons..the voices of failure and self doubt. i needed strength, someplace deep in my mind or outside of it. I thought of my father, who passed away in 2002, he wrestled and would be proud of me, but not if I gave up now. He was in my head. I thought of my son who is 1 and a half, who never met his grandfather, what kind of legacy would it be to break now? What kind of father would I be if I quit? Was that how i was raised? Do iw ant to raise my son to fail? They deserve better. I won't be broken. I might lose, I might die, but i will not be broken. 15 minutes go by. Round 3 is a draw!
They were not prepared for us to wrestle 45 minutes without either of us getting a submission or pin. They quickly decide, 1 more round of 15 minutes, if no pin or submission, they will declare a winner based on that round. The criteria for judging is not stated but it doesn't matter.
Round 4. More of the same of how we started first 3 rounds, but much slower, we are both exhausted. Somehow we scramble on the ground, and he is behind me in turtle position. 10 minutes have gone by. 5 minutes left, i fear they will give him the match for being a little more active than I am. i have a decision to make.... i can defend for 5 more minutes and let them decide and most likely lose the match, or, I can take more of a risk, which will be good if it works but might get me pinned if it doesn't. I didn't want to lose by decision, so I made the best attempt I could to create a scramble, but Luis adjusted and I was caught in a pin and lost the match.
55 minutes of wrestling and torture. I gave it everything I had. I did not quit. i came up short, but in a match like this, there is no loser. i beat my demons. I beat my injured hip. What was impossible to do in may, I went and did in August. I thought I was old and washed up, but I reached a level of conditioning i did not think was possible. I learned a lot about myself. For those 55 minutes I was truly alive. It was an unbelievably amazing experience!
My family and Luis's family all went out to eat afterwards. He's a good guy and we became friends. We have a bond and mutual respect for each other after such a long, grueling match.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
― Theodore Roosevelt