Wrestling With Masculinity

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Andrew Delfino
Jay Mechling


With high school wrestling as our focus, we encounter the drama of the interac-tion of the formal organizational culture controlled by the adult coaches and adult volunteers and the informal adolescent folk culture of the wrestlers themselves. As Mechling says about the California Boy Scout troop he studied for decades (Mechling 2001), the culture created at a Boy Scout camp or on a wrestling team is a tertium quid, a third thing, which is neither the culture created by the adults nor the culture created by the adolescents but a culture that results from the dynamic interaction of the two, a hot “border culture.” The culture of a wrestling team is nowhere near the “total institution” (Goffman 1961) of a two-week Boy Scout encampment, where the boys and men eat, sleep, play, and work together. But the members of a wrestling team spend a lot of time together and, if all goes well, they create a strong adolescent male friendship group, a male folk group. As folklorists we have a broader understanding of the significance of the everyday “practices” by the young participants. We seek to understand the expressive functions of the everyday folk cultures of the young wrestlers as well as the instrumen-tal functions that sociologists tend to emphasize.


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