Last night, I kicked back and spent time working on repairing the ArmchairGM account. Sadly, there was no way to transfer the information from the “InterMat” username to a new one, so “BryantWrestling” was born.
Around 2 a.m., I was watching bad movie after bad movie and then stumbled across “ Going to the Mat.” I hit info to see what it was about. A blind teen and his quest for a challenge and his own acceptance goes out for the wrestling team. This creates a rift between the movie-typical high school jock and the cocky new blind kid set on cracking jokes at others to deflect his own affliction.
The main character, Jason (Jace) Newfield, is played by one of the Lawrence brothers — Andy. Yes, the same family that produced Joey Lawrence and his “woah” on the 90’s sitcom “Blossom.” I never found the appeal in Mayam Bialik.
Newfield’s character struggles more with the adaptation of a new home — Utah — as compared to his musically-driven life in New York, where the family had previously lived.
Oh, I failed to mention, this was a made-for-television movie made by Disney. Yes, I was watching The Disney Channel at 3 a.m. In terms of being watchable, “Going to the Mat” was a feel good teen flick aimed at positive vibes and overcoming adversity — something wrestling teaches all of us. Wrestling as a backdrop for this was not only realistic, it’s not as uncommon as people believe. In Virginia, the first two Group AA state championships in the 1970’s were won by the Virginia School for the Deaf & Blind. I’ve known several blind wrestlers throughout the years and if you think pressure and positioning is key for those of us who can see, multiply that ten-fold for a blind athlete.
It’s typical in movies where wrestling is mentioned to see Hollywood, or whoever produces the flick, to get many aspects of the sport wrong. “Going to the Mat” had some sensationalism in terms of the actual realism involved with wrestling, but D.B. Sweeney’s portrayal of Coach Rice of Homestead High was solid in terms of acting like a coach and getting terminology down. In all previous movies (save Reversal), which showed wrestling practice scenes, I’d never heard “hip heist” used. Wow, real terminology. It’s basic, but it added to the movie from a wrestling fan’s perspective.
The wrestling scenes were far too unrealistic in terms of way too many pins and throws. Some of the officials positions weren’t too close — but there were realistic attacks and terminology. Late in the movie, a familiar face to some wrestling fans showed up as a referee. That face is the one of current Utah Valley University head coach Greg Williams, who was a technical adviser to the movie which was filmed in Utah.
Williams played the role of an official in the movie’s climactic final match between Newfield and T-Rex Turner, a two-time state champion from a rival high school who earlier in the movie pinned Newfield’s teammate, Josh Lambrix, who was too drained from dropping “too much” weight in a short time.
While the cut wasn’t extreme by any means, but the movie didn’t stress the weight cut element of the sport, which is something “Reversal” focused too much on. The weight cutting aspect affected Lambrix’s performance, which is true in many cases if done improperly.
Another realistic element added was the role of Alessandra Toreson as Mary Beth Rice, the daughter of the coach. Many wrestling coaches daughters have the same traits Toreson portrays. Knowledgeable about the sport and accepting of how wrestlers and their parents act. Newfield’s parents are new to the sport and ask questions very typical of first-timers. My own mother had the very same type of questions when I started wrestling in high school.
Watching this as a general movie person, it was a nice little find. Watching this as a wrestling fan made me question certain wrestling elements of the movie, but it was easily more believable than the Olympiad Wrestling scene in Meatballs, which was on earlier in the day on one of the HBO’s.
It’s a feel-good movie and if wrestling fans can actually catch this, it’s a good little movie. Not great, not completely realistic, but a good little movie.
Oh, and it’s got Wayne Brady in it as a blind music teacher and reluctant confidant of Newfield.
The movie came out in 2004 … which would be close to the time of Brady’s infamous “I’m Wayne Brady, B*tch!” sketch from Chappelle Show. A contrast, but something that did give me a chuckle.