As we drove back from Columbus, OH (the Tournament of Champions), there was much opportunity to reflect on the trip. In that time one encompassing thought abounded more than any other, “Wrestling is the greatest sport ever”. In what other sport can you find five year olds and 40 years olds competing in the same event. It was literally a tournament of epic proportions. There were 3000 plus competitors and 40 different mats, in addition to fans and various venders selling wrestling apparel. It was awesome!
This all brought me to another realization regearding wrestling. Anyone can do it. And there is really minimal equipment required. All that is needed is a flat space and two opponents. The other unique characteristic of wrestling is that it pits two competitors against one another. It is you versus him/her, in head to head combat. There are no teammates out there with you for help or support. There isn’t a field of other individuals, each competing separately, then comparing scores or times at the end. No, it is two people battling in a legalized fight for a set duration, or until a specific outcome occurs.
These exact reasons make wrestling a sport that very few people can endure and even fewer can comprehend it. This is also the beauty of wrestling. There is a uniqueness to the sport that automatically separates those that do it from those that don’t. Only a wrestler understands and that’s enough for us. It is a combat sport but also one of respect and honor. In very few sports do opponents shake hands before and after competition. And at the conclusion of the match the two stand at the center of the competitive ring for all to see. The victor’s hand is raised triumphantly, while the defeated watches humbly on. Every wrestler has experienced both sides of this. The exhilarating feeling of having your hand raised after a hard fought battle. You are the winner. The crowd cheers and the familar voices of your friends and family echo out in chants of admiration. A few feet away stands the beaten wrestler, stirring up every ounce of dignity just to hold his head high. The pain of defeat stings his already bruised and beaten body.
This paints such a humbling picture of opposing emotions that all true wrestles know. It is a natural occurrence in life. A cycle, if you will, of the way of the world. Victory, Defeat. Success, Failure. Happiness, Sadness. Life, Death. All things that we must deal with every single day. The sport of wrestling instills in us great, real life lessons. Lessons that will stick with us forever and will be passed on for generations to come.
If only those on the Olympic Committee could understand this, perhaps wrestling would not be dropped from the Olympics. As an avid wrestling coach, fan, and competitor, the sport will eternally live in my blood. Battle scars leave permanent memories etched into my skin left over from practices and matches of the past. Sore joints and nagging injuries plague my body daily but also provide constant reminders of where I’ve come from and what I’ve been through. Multiple knee surgeries and hours of physical therapy have cost thousands of dollars in medical bills. Perhaps a negative consequence of wrestling but, in reality, proof of a life well-lived. I’ve put my body through hell and risked injury for mere victory, even at the smallest of conquests such as getting a takedown or defending a shot. Conceivably the holy grail of wrestling mementos is the deformed cartilege of the ear, known as cauliflower ear. Two instances of ever-evolving cauliflower ear mark me a WRESTLER.
Wrestlers should wear these keepsakes proudly. Cherrish them and share stories of how you got them. We are part of an elite club in today’s society. It is our duty to spread our love of the sport and keep the tradition alive. So when someone approaches you saying, “What’s wrong with your ear?” or “What’s that scar from?”. Your simple and direct response should be, “I’m a wrestler”.