some BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF present day and recently retired wrestlers

Alf harrington

I was born at Kirkbride in 1953. I went to school at Bowness - on - Solway until I was 11 years old, and then after passing my 11 plus exam, I went to Nelson Thomlinson School at Wigton.
In those early years, everyone played football, but when I went to the Grammar School, the emphasis was on Rugby and Cross Country. I competed at both for the school and also continued to play football. After I left school I played for a number of local football teams in the local leagues.
In 1976, I took up rugby again and played for Carlisle RFC, and also represented Cumbria in the County Championship. My position on the team was ‘tight head prop’, and I always felt this fitted in well with my wrestling, because one of the key elements of ‘propping’ is balance and getting your body into the right position. I think this applies equally to wrestling too.
I started wrestling when I went to the Carlisle Wrestling Club with an elder brother, George, who himself was a Champion in his day. I had tried wrestling a few years before at the local Kirkbride Sports, but that was my only previous experience. I did not start wrestling until I was 19 and I missed out on that period when you’re very young, and so much learning takes place. I didn’t win any events until May 1979 when I won at Tranwell. Two months later I won the All Weights Championship at Cleator Moor.
My first competition at Grasmere was in the early 70’s, taking part in the 12 stones competition - but I never did much in the lower weights. By the time I started winning, there were only 14 stones and All Weights competitions open to me - and I soon left the 14 stones behind!
Grasmere (apart from the World Championship events) is definitely the place to win. At Grasmere you always have to beat a very good field of wrestlers, so there is always a strong sense of achievement if you are successful. I always had an air of nervous expectation there and I think this is because of that feeling of prestige if you did win. I’m married to Christine Day who comes from Carlisle, and we have 2 sons, Joe who is 13 and Michael who’s 11. Both of them wrestle and both have won trophies at the local wrestling club in Carlisle. Joe also won the Wrestling Association trophy in 2000 for the most points gained in a season in the under 12 category. Rugby training helped me with fitness and strength, but I had no particular diet. Rugby training lasted from July through to April, so I never really needed to train for the wrestling season. During the season, wrestling events themselves helped me to keep that competitive edge.
I think that control of the sport must be maintained in the hands of the Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling Association. I see no benefit in our traditional sport being administered by some national body. That does not infer that we want a closed shop, our competition is open to anyone who will compete under our rules.
My greatest rival in recent times has obviously been Robert McNamara. I first competed against Robert at Ambleside in 1993, and since then he has developed into a true champion in all senses. He is almost unbeatable at present. I always had to develop a new strategy to try and deal with him but he used to learn very quickly how to deal with it. I would say that the best of the rest of the All Weights would have to be Wilf Brocklebank from Burton and Alan Davidson from Rothbury.
I decided to finish competing after the injury at Grasmere in 1997 . I had already incurred an injury the previous year at the Cumberland Show and I felt now was the time to call it a day. It was taking longer and longer to recuperate after each event and I was starting to pick up more and more injuries.
I am certainly proud of my record at Grasmere. 11 wins out of the 12 All Weights finals I competed in, is not a bad record. I lost my unbeaten record in finals to Robert McNamara on that day in 1997 when I fell awkwardly and had to pull out through injury. The injury had nothing to do with getting beaten - the better man won the day.
Altogether, I’ve been World Champion 6 times and by the time I finished in 1997, I had a tally of over 500 wins to my credit. In 1982, I shared a plaque with J. Threlfall, for the most points gained in Heavyweight wrestling. Over the next 13 or so years, I averaged 30 wins a year - 39 wins in 1992. From 1982 to 1996 I won the Wrestling Association Heavyweights points trophy every year.
I still keep my hand in with training youngsters at Carlisle Wrestling club; I act as referee at Grasmere now and I still hold the position of Secretary and Treasurer of the Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling Association.