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The Final: Part 1
|My stomach was in knots, my heart thumping, as I pulled up in front of Chrissy’s house. I didn’t know why I was so nervous already. I mean, it was the biggest day in JP’s wrestling career – the day of the state championship – but the match wasn’t going to begin for another few hours yet. I doubted that even JP himself was this jittery. He was probably taking it very coolly as usual, gradually psyching himself up for the moment of his life. Taking a deep breath to calm myself down as much as possible, I made my way up to the Angelakis’ front door and knocked.
“Hey, Matt,” Chrissy greeted me after opening it. “Come in.”
“Are you guys almost ready?” I asked, maybe a little too excitedly, as I stepped into the front hall.
Chrissy smiled. “You’re nervous for him, too, aren’t you?” she asked, lowering her voice. I nodded. “I’m going crazy! I couldn’t even sleep last night.”
Good, I thought, at least I’m not alone.
“Well, you still look great as usual,” I taunted her, laughing heartily and following her into the kitchen. “Have your eyes on another wrestler or something?”
Chrissy narrowed her eyes teasingly at me. “You know, you’re lucky you’re gay. I’d be all over you with a comment like that.” I bit my lip, knowing from past experience that that wasn’t far from the truth. “Actually, Danny Tranh isn’t so bad-looking,” she confessed, blushing in a way that told me she wasn’t joking about that.
“Anyway,” I continued, leaving the subject as it was, “is Nick ready to go?”
She smirked, looking quickly around the room. “You kidding me? This match is the only thing he’s been talking about for a week.” She glanced out the window as she spoke. “I think he’s outside somewhere – yeah, there he is, on the jungle gym, as usual.”
As Chrissy ran to the sliding glass door, I curiously looked out the kitchen window myself. Sure enough, Nick was doing a set of pull-ups from a chinning bar that was part of an old backyard play-set. He was too far away to see his face clearly, but I could tell that he was serious about what he was doing – his form was near perfect. Wow, I said to myself, noting the familiarity of the scene, Nick really is trying to follow in JP’s footsteps. I smiled inwardly at the thought.
“Nick, come inside,” Chrissy called in her best big sister voice, “Matt’s here.”
The boy immediately jumped down from the bar and, without so much as a pause, ran across the yard to the house. Jesus, the kid had unlimited energy! In no time at all, he had reached the door and, breathing healthily, tracked into the room.
“What’s up, Matt?” he said enthusiastically and clasped my hand, his firmness giving me a slight shock. There was something a little different about him. Maybe it was the inch or two had had sprouted since I last saw him in November. “Did you see me out there?” he beamed. “You think JP would be proud of me for working out? He told me to, you know.”
I looked up at Chrissy, who rolled her eyes. “I’m sure he would be,” I commented. “Those pull-ups looked pretty good.”
Nick beamed. “Thanks,” he continued. “I’ve been doing hundreds of pull-ups and push-ups and sit-ups every day and every night, just like JP told me to do.”
I grinned obligingly. The kid always hung on to every word his hero said to him. “You’ll be pretty strong by wrestling camp this summer.”
“Oh, I already am,” Nick bragged. “You wanna see my bicep?”
“Nick,” Chrissy protested, but he had already stripped off his T-shirt. My heart almost skipped a beat; I no longer had to fake my amazement when I saw the kid’s torso. He wasn’t trying to follow in JP’s footsteps; he was following in JP’s footsteps. His thin arms were well-toned; his chest held a pair of slender, but well-developed pecs and his faint six-pack was nearly flawless. Basically, there was not a single ounce of fat on the boy’s body – only muscle. I felt a lump in my throat as my mind flashed back to the early days of my own boyfriend’s development and then realized that this little kid standing in front of me was still only 12 years old. JP had been 14.
“Feel my arm, Matt,” he urged me. “Feel how hard it is already.” Nick raised his right arm and flexed his bicep, causing a small, round ball of muscle to pop up underneath his skin. My eyes widened in astonishment at its peak. It was fantastic for kid who had only been doing basic workouts for four months. And it was rock hard, too; I could barely dent it.
“That’s amazing,” I exclaimed. Nick shined his perfect, white teeth at me proudly. He could tell I was genuinely impressed by his physique.
“I’ll be right down in a minute,” he promised us as he grabbed his shirt and bounded up the stairs, taking them two at a time.
“Pretty impressive for a seventh grader, huh?” Chrissy remarked after her little brother had gone. I nodded. “And I overheard my parents saying that they may give him a real weight bench for his 13th birthday this month.” I raised my eyebrows at this news. “Imagine how big he’ll get then.”
“I can imagine,” I answered, remembering how quickly JP amassed pound after pound of muscle in a short period of time.
“And he eats like you wouldn’t believe,” she went on. “Sound familiar?”
I nodded again. “He’s like a little JP,” I muttered, a shiver running down my back.
On the way to George Mason University, where the tournament was being held, Chrissy and I had to put up with Nick’s constant chattering about JP and how great he was – not that I minded hearing about my boyfriend. In my absence at his wrestling matches, he had been mentoring Nick, devoting a lot of time to molding the boy into the top athlete he was becoming. And now that his hard work was starting to show, Nick was beginning to really get into the sport. Apparently, he would research on his own all the various offensive and defensive moves and how he could improve his speed and flexibility. He was like a little machine, eager to learn everything there ever was to learn about wrestling. And frankly, I couldn’t help but feel proud of both him and JP.
The three of us arrived at the Patriot Center – the university’s 10,000-seat arena – and made our way through the throngs of fans mulling the main concourse. Nick was in such awe from the moment we walked in. I could practically see his mind dreaming of the day that he might compete here. The lightweight class finals had already begun, so we hurried to our seats where we met up with Danny.
“Congratulations,” I said, giving him a pat on the shoulder. “Third place at Districts. Not bad.”
He grinned appreciatively, bashfully eyeing Chrissy as she came into view. “Thanks, man. Maybe next year, I’ll be down there,” he replied, nodding his head toward the mats.
“I bet you will,” Chrissy winked, making Danny blush slightly. Perhaps there was something going on between them.
But just then, Nick came rushing up and greeted Danny like an old buddy and the two immediately began comparing biceps.
“I betcha mine will be at least as big as yours by eighth grade,” Nick boldly predicted.
“Oh, you think so,” Danny laughed. His arm dwarfed the younger boy’s, but even he had to admit that Nick’s still looked remarkable for a 12-year-old.
I watched the tournament with only partial interest; I was just too nervous about JP’s match, that I couldn’t keep my mind on the ones before his. Nick and Danny, of course, practically had a color commentary going, commenting on how well or how badly certain moves were executed.
Finally, the PA system boomed the introduction to the 189-pound match and immediately, the excitement in the arena elevated immensely. I knew that JP had become somewhat of a local celebrity, having gone undefeated this season. But since he was facing a wrestler he had never seen before – and a very good one at that – his record surely would be put to the test.
“On the center mat, at 189 pounds…JP Maloney of Central and Greg Benson of Colonial Heights!”
The crowd cheered crazily – Nick of course was jumping up and down – and I spotted dozens of blue-and-white Central Spartan banners waving wildly around the arena. JP obviously had quite a fan base, I thought to myself.
“There he is!” Nick screamed over the din, pointing madly at the entrance tunnel. In contrast to the commotion around them, the two wrestlers and their coaches filed calmly onto the floor, wearing their team’s warm-up suits. JP’s face was partially obscured in shadow, but I knew that the look in his eyes was one of sheer confidence and determination. In his mind, he was already the champion. The opposing groups parted and made their way to either side of the mat where they went through their last-minute stretching and preparation.
“I can’t watch!” Chrissy whimpered next to me, her hands visibly shaking.
“That makes two of us,” I answered back and she smiled warmly.
But right now, my eyes were fixed on my boyfriend as he began stripping down to his singlet. Slowly, but deliberately, he slid the jacket off his huge shoulders and draped it over the back of a chair. The musculature of his arms was simply incredible. They seemed to somehow get more and more beautiful every time I saw him. His biceps practically exploded out of his skin like cannonballs as his stretched his triceps over his head, and his lats flared out from his sides like wings, straining the material of the singlet in such a way that the dark blue stripes noticeably lightened about a dozen shades.
He turned away as Coach Graves talked to him, giving him some final advice. The definition in his shoulders was literally breathtaking. Those giant deltoids that sat heavily on his arms when relaxed were ridiculously shredded; nearly every striation and muscle fiber was clearly visible twitching underneath his skin. And the powerful arches of his upper back muscles shifted back and forth so entrancingly as he swung his arms around, that I swore he could not be real.
Then, he shook out his arms – his massive triceps jiggling loosely – and hung them at his sides, bringing attention to the remarkable taper in his back and his impossibly tiny waist. He next stretched out his neck, moving his head from side to side. As he did, the solid cords of muscle inside popped and flexed with immense intimidation. And the interplay between his neck and his traps was amazing, their graceful arcs sweeping elegantly across to his shoulders.
At last, JP slid down his pants, revealing the most beautiful bubble butt ever imagined. The spandex fabric of the singlet hugged his skin, effectively bringing out the perfect curves of his lower back, the flawless dimples of his ass-cheeks and the round firmness of his glutes. I was in such awe of the sight, I was practically drooling all over myself.
“Isn’t that the most gorgeous thing you’ve ever seen?” Chrissy gasped in my ear. All I could do was nod in reply.
And then there were his legs – two massive columns of pure muscle, each one etched exquisitely to perfection. The striations in his hamstrings were ripped and the diamond-shapes of his calves were beyond faultless. You looked at those legs and you knew for sure that nothing could survive their powerful strength.
The referee blew his whistle, calling the two wrestlers to the center of the mat. JP turned around again, displaying his front side to us – and it was just as mouth-watering as the rest of him, if not more. The large teardrops of his thighs shook as he stepped and his bulge…damn, that tremendous bulge of his…I almost went into a sweat when I saw it. It swayed menacingly between his legs, the spandex buckling under its size.
“That Benson kid is a pretty big guy,” I heard Danny remark. “Look at him.”
I had been so entranced by my own boyfriend’s body that I had completely forgotten about his opponent. As the pair snapped on their headgear and put in their mouth-guards, I took a second to size up the other wrestler. Sure enough, Greg Benson was a beast. He was considerably taller than JP – probably about 6’3” or 6’4” – and beefy. He wasn’t as muscular, but he definitely looked like he could crush the life out of anyone. Gone were the days when JP faced slimmer competitors; he was up against the big guys now. Well, of course, he wasn’t small himself anymore, but this guy seem to be the biggest guy to ever wrestle JP. I couldn’t believe that the two could possibly be in the same weight class.
The two wrestlers flimsily shook hands in the middle of the circle, both wanting to start as soon as possible. Benson stared down at JP threateningly, but JP glared right back, not moving a muscle…despite his amazing definition. At the moment before the first whistle, I felt my stomach in my throat and I couldn’t breathe. The whole arena was on edge, the tension higher than anything I had ever felt.
And then, the shrill tweet cut the silence…and the frenzy began.
Benson was on JP with impossible speed, throwing him to the mat in the matter of only seconds and scoring a takedown. I glanced agitatedly at Coach Graves who already had his head in his hands. I got the feeling that he had underestimated his prodigy’s opponent.
“Holy shit, the guy’s fast,” Danny exclaimed, a quiver of worry in his voice. I could only agree – for a big guy, he was incredibly quick. I guess he didn’t get to the state final for nothing, I thought.
Unusual for him, JP looked a little dazed and shocked for a split second before quickly regaining his composure and fighting back. Through sheer strength and almost superhuman flexibility, he avoided an early pin and eventually escaped the hold. I breathed a short sigh of relief, my fingernails instinctively flying up to my teeth. Man, I thought, this is going to be a tough one to watch.
JP retreated a few steps and immediately re-firmed his stance. My heart was pounding against my chest and Chrissy was clutching my hand tightly. Neither of us looked at each other, but we both knew the other was anxious beyond words.
Suddenly, and with an agility I never thought possible even for him, JP launched himself at his opponent, aiming for his legs. Now it was Benson’s turn to be caught off-guard as he was taken down, any assurance that this was going to be an easy match for him wiped cleanly out of his mind. The Spartan supporters cheered, realizing that JP was solidly back in it. Benson was now on his side, fighting insanely hard to keep from getting pinned. Meanwhile, JP was trying to force his shoulder blades onto the mat. But neither was budging; it really was a clash of two titans. JP’s arm muscles were straining, the striations in his chest twitching, willing their strength to exert their full power, but Benson just kept fighting it off. Finally, Benson threw JP off of him and reversed the situation, causing JP to assume an uncomfortable-looking defensive position.
I began sweating buckets, my leg bouncing up and down in distress. “Come on, JP,” I muttered, “come on!” Oh, how I wished I could go down there and do something – though how much of a difference it would’ve made, I doubted.
Benson had one of his arms around the back of JP’s right leg and was forcing it upward, causing JP’s shoulders to come dangerously close again to the mat. But JP wasn’t ready to call uncle yet. He twisted his torso around and crunched his stomach as if he were doing a very awkward and very painful sit-up. His face was contorted in agony, sweat pouring down every inch of his skin. Then, his mouth opened and he let out a primal roar as he blasted his other leg over his opponent, pushing against his side. Solely with the unbelievable strength of his hips and lower body, JP flipped Benson over onto his back and rolled off, landing safely on his hands and knees.
Seconds later, the referee blew his whistle, signaling the end of the first three-minute period. Both JP and Benson slowly got to their feet, breathing heavily and wiping the sweat out of their eyes.
“Holy crap,” Nick blurted breathlessly. “How did he do that?”
The rest of us were speechless. I swallowed for what seemed like the first time since the match began and rubbed my own eyes with my fingers. I looked down at my boyfriend who was now standing at the side of the mat, talking to his coach. His arms and pecs were flushed and red from the effort, the bangs of his golden brown hair matted wet against his forehead. He looked exhausted, but he knew his job was far from finished.
After the short break, the two wrestlers were called back to the center of the mat for the second period. I could tell that both their bodies were screaming for more rest, but their minds were not about to give in. The referee sounded his whistle once again and both JP and Benson attacked each other simultaneously, but neither brought the other down right away. Instead, they remain deadlocked for almost a whole minute, their foreheads pressed together. Sporadically, one would attempt to weaken his opponent’s stance by swiping at his lower body, but to no result. Benson seemed to be closely observing JP’s thighs, watching the muscles in his legs twitch efficiently as he shifted his weight.
“Look at that,” Danny commented, noticing the same thing that I was. “The guy is using JP’s definition against him. He’s reacting to how his muscles are moving.” He bit his lip nervously. “I hope JP realizes that.”
I blinked dazedly. Wow, the guy was good…maybe too good. I couldn’t believe that in a match as physical and as brutal as this one, he could find a way to try to outsmart his competitor.
Suddenly, the two bodies collapsed in a blur. Whatever happened, Benson’s ploy had worked and he landed on top of JP, who was now trying desperately to twist his body around so that his back was not in contact with the floor. Benson immediately closed in for the attack while JP attempted to break away and get himself out of trouble yet again. If it wasn’t for his ridiculous flexibility, he would be hopeless – Benson was just too quick. Somehow, he was able to curl an arm under JP’s armpit and pull him back. JP clawed at the mat, instinctively groping around for something to hold onto. I could tell in his eyes that his mind was racing – he had to keep focused or he’d be a goner.
With all the power and strength he could muster, JP battled back desperately. His face was grimacing agonizingly, the sinewy cords in his neck straining, his veins rapidly pulsating. Every muscle fiber was hard at work, every striation stretched to their limit, as he tried to fight off Benson’s overwhelming assault. No matter how hard he applied the pressure, JP found his shoulder blades inching closer and closer to the mat – time was growing short and he was running out of defensive moves.
“Oh, shit, no!” I heard Danny shout in dismay. The crowd was going crazy, so intense that nearly everyone was on their feet.
Chrissy dug her fingernails into the back of my hand, shooting pain up my forearm, but I didn’t care. I just couldn’t watch my boyfriend lose the match after such a hard fight. I shut my eyes tightly; I didn’t want to see what was surely going to happen next.
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