My interest in the sport of wrestling was planted back in 1992, when, as an 8th grader I was plagued with a tumultuous way of life, some of which I had brought upon myself.
As an 8th grader I was assigned a home room teacher at the beginning of the year, Mr. Dave Llewellyn, and it was in his classroom that I would spend a majority of my hours Monday through Friday talking, messing around and attempting to impose my will as self-proclaimed “Class Clown”. Each of my ploys at attention was a feeble attempt at masking the pain that had become my life.
Mr. Llewellyn saw potential in me as a student, as an athlete, and most important, as a person. There were days when the only thing left for Mr. Llewellyn to do was to send me to the Principle’s office and it was certainly warranted. There were other days when he would pull me out of class and have me sit in the hallway. There was one day that would change the trajectory of my life. It was about 2-months into the school year when my home room teacher asked me to stay after the final bell, releasing us from school for the day. I hesitantly agreed with anxious anticipation as to what he was going to say or what punishment was in store for me this time. It wasn’t long after that all of my classmates and I began to stack our chairs on the top of our desks and clambering to the front of the line, we waited for the ringing of the bell to give us our pending freedom for the day.
As each student piled out the door and down the hallway to their lockers I lay in wait at the door with the fear of yet another punishment looming over me while my teacher sat at his desk, head down and pen fast at work. Mere minutes which seemed an eternity passed by when at last my home room teacher turned his eyes from his desk and toward my direction saying, “Come here, Son”. With hesitance gripping my every step I made my way from the back of the class toward his desk where, the only noise was the beating of the clock on the wall coupled with my pounding heart beat. When I crossed over my fears and into the seat adjacent to his desk I was overtaken with a sense of relief when Mr. Llewellyn broke a smile, spoke to me in a calm, collected tone and handed me an envelope. With hesitant anticipation I peeled back the top of the paper to open up the contents of the envelope only to discover a check…A CHECK! Accompanying the check was a pamphlet for the local wrestling club.
Overwhelmed with a sense of wonder; unsure why someone would do something so kind for no apparent reason, it was in that moment that I developed a love for the sport of wrestling and a clue that my life could be more than what I had experienced up to that point.
That was 8th grade when I was 13-years old and I found myself now, a 33-year old assistant coach to our local high school wrestling program with the same love of the sport and an even greater appreciation for the potential of young men, much like I was 20 years ago.
An apparent rant, there really is more to my musing than simply reminiscent ramblings…
It was just over a week ago that I had a conversation with a young man who has an unquestionable love for the sport of wrestling. A unique kid both on the mat and off, he has battled knee injuries his entire career including what easily could have been a season-ending knee separation and subsequent surgery to repair the damage the first week of our season. Unbelievably so, this young man, a Senior in high school with what is likely his last chance at wrestling competitively, he came back to wrestle the final week of the season to win his last home dual.
What a blast to be a part of!
The following week our kids wrestled off to see who would go on to wrestle in our Section tournament at each weight class. Each coach lined the walls of our wrestling room and watched as this young man upset a stronger, healthier kid in his weight class. The caveat here is that, as a Senior, nothing was guaranteed and he had to beat this kid twice in a row to secure a spot for team/individual sections. At the sound of the whistle leading into the second match this Senior with high aspirations who had worked so hard to come back took a deep shot, a single-leg that fell shy before his opponent took advantage of the miss and turned him to his back. They fought hard the first period leading up to period two. The second period began with a headlock from the Senior’s opponent that landed him on his back eventually leading to a pin and a loss.
All I could do as a coach and a mentor was sit, watch and wait. After shaking hands I watched as this Senior emotionally broke, not wanting to give way to tears, but the effects of his loss sinking in; that as a Senior he would never wrestle another competitive match for the school or as an individual that would put him in the place to wrestle at the next level. As he stood to his feet I approached him, hugged him, expressed my pride in his perseverance and willingness to fight through the pain to prove to himself, once and for all, to himself and to see if he could come back from his injuries. Together we walked the outside of the mats – I talked – he listened and fought back tears of disappointment.
Living Beyond The Takedown, I said. Living Beyond The Takedown…
In a few minutes I sought to explain to this young man that there is life beyond the mats; that he had much more going for him and that wrestling is not who he is, but something that he had done; that this disappointment could either refine him or define him. He listened, nodded and processed while I talked, walked and shook the kid’s hand in appreciation for who he is, not what he had done as a wrestler.
It was through this conversation that I was reminded of the importance for Living Beyond The Takedown; that life is as much about the journey as it is the destination, and that God uses circumstances to allow us to either be refined or defined.
“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
– Romans 5:3-5 (NIV)
Through the lessons of my home room teacher, Mr. Llewellyn and given the opportunity to share life and wrestling with a Senior I have come to, yet again, appreciate Living Beyond The Takedown, and in remembering that our circumstances will either refine us or define us.
And you? What will you do with your circumstances? Will you allow your circumstances in life to refine you or define you?
I encourage you to remember that the things we do are exactly that, things that we do, and that does not need to be who we are.
Living Beyond The Takedown…