In my life, I always want to go the extra mile and challenge myself. I constantly try to get out of my comfort zone and push through my own boundaries and limits at school, on the wrestling mat, and in my social life and learn from every situation or trial. From a young age, I played football, baseball, and basketball, but wrestling taught me self reliance and teamwork simultaneously. While my team, parents, and my friends are all behind me during the six-minute matches, in the end, it is just me standing under the lights on the mat. It is up to me to push myself to the highest physical and mental limits or to give up.
Wrestling taught me to live to my highest potential. Even in the moments when I fail or lose, when my strength is tested and my confidence in myself is challenged; when everything is divided inside me and one part of me is screaming “I quit” – the other, more mature and stronger part of me, drives away the pain, fear, and doubts. These are the moments when I learn the most about myself.
Being a wrestler taught me that I am responsible for the outcome of each decision I make – on the wrestling mat or in my everyday life. Your teammates can’t step in to help you out, if things are not going your way and you have no one else to blame. You have to be responsible for everything – from making weight to scoring points. Not to mention late nights after brutal practices when you crawl back home, take a shower and do your homework, eat plain chicken and then go for a run just to be sure you can make your weight class the next morning. Wrestling definitely requires discipline, time management and will power.
Some of the strongest relationships are built in times of extreme circumstances. Wrestling is one of those challenges that will bring you to your knees when you are drenched in sweat, blood, and frustration. Wrestling is the sport that will make you curse that they ever joined, but will also help build some of the strongest relationships and values in your life. The sport is so intense that it will tear you down to your core and allow you to rebuild and grow into the person that God had planned.
My first experience with wrestling started when I was in sixth grade. I liked the sport just because it was different and most everyone else played baseball, football, or soccer… but I was different because I wrestled. This was a step outside of my comfort zone as it was such a unique sport, but most of all it was because it was the hardest, most challenging sports I had ever experienced. This drive to be better at the sport continued into high school, where I dove headfirst into the program by attending to every offseason practice and every little thing that would give me a little head start for my high school debut. Little did I know that I was one of the worst wrestlers in the room. This was the beginning of me learning that there are multiple components into becoming a true competitor. Understanding that the sport took dedication, hard work and focus is a given, however, there was something missing. Coach Welch and Coach Sandoval introduced something that filled that void – spirituality. That word has multiple meanings that would change how I approached not just athletics, but life as a whole. The coaching, teachings and mentorship that the wrestling coaches brought into the environment really created a new way of looking at all situations. When I accepted and understood that there was more to the sport than hard work, friendships started developing. The friendships grew and became stronger with the constant need to rely upon each other from the continuous and relentless grind.
In other sports you might find a great coach, but in Valor wrestling you find great mentors. Coach John is very close to my heart, and he opened my eyes and showed me a way of how to live my life. In the beginning, I just liked his wrestling style, and asked him to stay after practices and teach me more. But I soon realized he was teaching me more than just wrestling – he was teaching me respect and leadership. He is a man of God that I still use as a guide to see where and what I should do in order to represent myself in a respectful manner. He and all of my other coaches have brought me to become more spiritual, and have guided me to become a leader of tomorrow.
Wrestling constantly tears down your barriers, breaks you down to the point where you need help, not just physically, but spiritually. It was through these hard times that created the trust I could count on – not from just one person, but the whole team. This trust carries through from the wrestling room into everyday life. Taking the teachings from our coaches showing us all what godly men are like gives all of us wrestlers a goal to strive for towards every day.
In wrestling we don’t have timeouts – we have “blood time.” We get our noses smashed, joints twisted and eyes blackened, but we learn how to wrestle through pain and how to find that second breath and not give up. It teaches us discipline. When your friends and relatives are feasting on fast food or Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners, or staying up late partying, wrestlers have to make choices that will not hurt them the next day on the mat.
There is no entitlement in wrestling. Your value as a wrestler depends on your everyday performance, and if you fail to show up the day before the tournament – you will wrestle off and the winner will represent your team the next day. In wrestling, you must constantly earn your spot to represent your team.
Why do I wrestle? I wrestle for the challenge. I wrestle for the competition. I wrestle because not many people can try and stick with this sport. But the biggest reason I wrestle is to become a part of a select group of individuals striving to become more than a better wrestler, but a better person, a friend, a leader. Through this sport and through the incredible leadership of our coaches, wrestling has brought the habit of praying, worshiping, and questioning everything which has helped me build my own faith and helped me find my own path in life. When you wrestle, you are out there alone on the mat, however, with a team behind you, with coaches and mentors behind you, with God behind you, you are really never alone.