The 2007 Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling Season....

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........begins this weekend. With a background of old tractors and steam engines the first bouts of the season will be on Sunday at Carlisle Airport where the Hethersgill Vintage Machinery Society holds its rally. Such stirrings seem as natural as the swallows returning, but it is worth standing back and reflecting why wrestling continues to entertain the crowds and stir up the wrestlers year by year in this corner of England:

Tradition:

Newspaper articles from the early eighteen hundreds record the excitement of the wrestling on the Swifts in Carlisle, and at the Ferry on Windermere. Wrestling has come down through the generations in the Northern Counties and the Borders of Scotland. Wrestling families, such as the Harringtons, Brocklebanks and Davidsons, are the backbone of the sport.

Ambience:

Wrestling does not search out beautiful places, but much of the action takes place with a backdrop of Lakeland Fells, the Dales, the Cheviots, or in parkland, by castles and rivers. The rings are the focus of skill, effort and good humoured banter.

International travel:

Although mainly a local sport, hundreds of wrestlers from the region have competed in Austria, Brittany, the Canary Islands, Holland, Iceland, Ireland, Sardinia, Scotland, and Spain over the last twenty years. In February this year, 24 people from our area travelled to Brittany for their Backhold Championships.

Money:

No one is likely to make a fortune at C&W wrestling, but there are cash prizes to be won, and profit to be made. No expensive equipment is needed and no annual subscriptions necessary. Poverty never stopped anyone from wrestling.

Friendship:

C&W wrestling is like a freemasonry, without the secrecy and funny handshakes. New competitors are warmly welcomed and can hardly avoid being helped by wrestlers old and new.

Sportsmanship:

The handshake at the beginning and end of each bout is no empty gesture. The sport needs toughness both physical and mental, but in a framework of good manners and sporting acceptance of defeat or victory.

Controlled aggression:

Youngsters often don't know how to get rid of their excess energy and aggression. Wrestling is ideal for them, as it needs vigour and effort, but by gripping their own hands there is no punching, and gouging. The lack of ground wrestling cuts out other unpleasant elements of conflict.

Fitness:

No matter how fit you think you are, C&W wrestling will test you out, and your first session will leave you feeling stiff the next day. The sport brings all the muscles of the leg, upper body and neck into play, and a weekly session would enhance anyone's general fitness.

Excitement:

 "It gets the adrenalin going. It's a bit like boxing, but you don't get your face punched." Mark Lowry expresses the intense excitement of a sport which pits man against man in a sport where your strength and skill are tested to the full in public view.

Satisfaction:

Nothing in sport quite beats the feeling when you outwit a good opponent and you feel him touch the ground before you after an all action bout. Without that basic, primitive, satisfaction, none of the previous points would matter at all, and C&W wrestling would never have existed.

The North Cumbria Young Farmers Field Day takes place the following Saturday (12th May) with its mixture of novice and experienced wrestlers representing the various clubs.

On the following day wrestling will be on display for the television cameras at the Eden Valley Vintage Machinery Rally at Dalemain. A programme for national ITV will be shot at the event. The programme makers are keen to have wrestlers in their traditional kit, and have sponsored a costume competition, to complement the wrestling programme. One problem and a sign of the times is that they must have parental permission to film youngsters.

Dates:

May 6th (Sun)  12.30pm Hethersgill Vintage Rally at Carlisle Airport U12/U15/U18/12½/AW

May 12th (Sat)  Northern Federation YFC Field Day

May 13th (Sun) Eden Valley Vintage Rally, Dalemain

Written by © Roger Robson. Photographs by © Roger Robson, Julian Richardson or Linda Scott (May 4th 2007)

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