In the spring of 1977 Doug Mason told his freshman adviser his plan to combine an East Asian Studies concentration with pre-med courses and wrestling. After listening to a stern warning about the need to preserve one's sanity at Harvard, Mason reacted with characteristic freshman ambition and plowed straight ahead.
Today, Mason is alive and well, shoulder-deep in a senior thesis on the Taiwanese National Health Insurance Program, waiting patiently to hear from Med Schools, co-captaining the Harvard wrestling squad and every bit as sane as he was three years ago.
Although Mason's wrestling career suffered through ups and downs while he weathered a succession of problems with inexperience, illness and injury, his rugged academic requirements and tutorials presented little challenge. When the time came to deal with the biggest ordeal of each wrestling season--making weight--Mason solved all of his troubles at once by burying himself in the stacks of the Yenching Library, far away from the Lowell House dining hall.
The transition from a low key high school wrestling program to college competition required more time and energy. Mason arrived at Harvard after an impressive final year at Friends School in Baltimore, where he captured the City Championship at 145-lbs. He almost singlehandedly packed the stands with spectators, eager to see the pins that were his trademark.
The first few times he turned out for a practice in the IAB, Mason had trouble handling the Crimson's veteran grapplers. Despite early disappointments, Mason demonstrated an aptitude for quick improvement.
"The most important change in my wrestling style was learning to use leg moves," Mason said recently. "With the time restrictions on working out, you need moves which allow you to rest while maintaining control, and at the same time force the other person to exert himself. Leg-riding is the easy way out."
After two years under the careful tutelage of Coach John Lee, Mason progressed rapidly toward his full potential at the beginning of his junior year. Strong showings against Lowell, Coast Guard and Worcester Polytech demonstrated that he had arrived. Unfortunately, a sprained ankle and a long-term virus tarnished last season.
The Big Plus
"Doug has had a tough time of it here. He's a much better wrestler than that 5-7 record last year indicated, and he is just the kind of guy you want as a captain," Lee said earlier this week. "It was a big plus when we found we would have him in the line-up this weekend."
Mason will rejoin the team for the upcoming matches against Columbia and Cornell after a two-month lay off needed to mend a dislocated elbow. Ordinarily he would fill the 158-lb. slot, but trying to recuperate and make weight is a nearly impossible task, so Lee will use him at 167-lbs.
Wrestling With One's Conscience
Mason is not one for crash diets. Although the days of demonstrating toughness by not eating have long since been replaced by a more sensible approach, he is still a frequent customer at the salad bars, only occasionally succumbing to an ice cream attack.
"Toward the end of each season, I start to make lists of the first few meals I want after it's all over," Mason says. "It's strange how good some things taste after you haven't eaten in awhile. Even the orange sherbet in the dining hall looks inviting when I'm trying to cut down."
Mason only has another month left in which to worry about making weight; shortly thereafter he will turn in his thesis, and for the first time in four years he will have a chance to catch his breath.