Traditionalists tear a strip off changes

WHEN the Wrestling Association decided to allow competitors to wear athletic costume other than a traditional wrestling strip for senior championships, it provoked a national media reaction.

Now that the season is well under way, spectators and old wrestlers in ringside conversation have almost unanimously expressed regret at the change, but they often believed that the traditional strip had been banned, which is certainly not the case.

On the other hand, more wrestlers seem to be wrestling in shorts than before, and two wrestlers from Kendal and Milnthorpe (David Parsons and Sam Wilkinson) have been wrestling in kit provided by governing board chairman Jim Bland, who favours change. That strip consists of fairly tight running gear, leggings which are usually called "Ron Hills", and a modern athletic vest.

This strip is neat and practical and not a million miles away from the wrestling gear worn in the first half of the 19th century!

In fact, the first time the new rules can have any direct effect is in the next two days when there are two senior championships. Another test will come at Ambleside Sports when "The Michael Berry Wrestling Programme" includes the All Weights Championship.

The late Michael Berry was a great supporter of wrestling and of the traditional strip. Accordingly, there will be a substantial prize for the best wrestling strip. "Costume preferred" is the enjoinder to the wrestlers.

Officially, no wrestling took place last week, but if you were at Plumbland School, near Aspatria, you would have disagreed. All sorts and ages of youngsters and parents (and the odd grandparent) got into their stocking-feet to hev a hod. Sometimes they knew the rules and sometimes they didn't, but who cares? The whole occasion was a lively comedy from beginning to end - the best sort of grass-roots wrestling.

The serious stuff begins again with two championships in two days this weekend: Joseph Robson defends his 14st title at the Cumberland Show and John Harrington is due at Great Ecclestone Show on Sunday to try to retain the huge 11st Championship trophy that was first awarded in 1906..

Written by © Roger Robson. Photographs by © Roger Robson, Julian Richardson or Linda Scott (May 4th 2011)

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