Wrestling Dual: Turning Loss into a Win

I talk about wrestling a lot, because that is where I learned most of the lessons required to be a man. The struggles that I went through on the wrestling mat directly correlate with the struggles that I have gone through in my life.

I can remember one match in particular, and it was probably one of the toughest losses of my life. My team was facing our number one rival, who we would go on to beat in the conference tournament by only 3 team points. Our coach had been putting a lot of pressure on each guy to win. When saw him in school that morning, he told me in particular that there was a lot riding on my shoulders, and that I needed to perform at my very best level.

I remember I made weight that day. I was under by a pound and a half, which in wrestling terms is a lot. Usually when Ii made weight, I made it by 0.1 pounds after having to sweat like crazy right beforehand.

When the match started, I realized why the coach was putting so much pressure on us. I was a middle weight, 152 pounds, meaning I was the 7th one to wrestle that day. There had only been one win before me, so my team was losing.

My match started, and the other guy was strong. He was pushing me around like crazy. I kept getting hit with stalling calls, but not because I was actually stalling, but because I kept letting him push me out of bounds. One of my favorite things to do was to back up a few steps, let them feel like they were gaining ground, when in reality I was timing their steps. As soon as they took a step, I would grab their leg and take them down. However, this wasn’t working because he would start pushing me and he was too strong, I couldn’t stop him.

In the middle of the first period, we had to stop for a solid five minutes because my coach was getting fired up. He got mad at the referee for calling me for stalling, and he made his opinion known. He got into it with the ref, and then the coach from the other team got involved. My coach was ready to fight both of them, in fact at one point my assistant coach had to hold him back. I remember hearing him say, just load enough that the team could hear and no one else, “You’re gonna have to throw me out of this motherf***er before I settle down!”

(Understand that my coach, while he is very emotional and passionate, is not usually very brash. This was his way of going to bat for me.)

I kept fighting, kept getting those stupid stall calls. By the third period, I was dead tired. I thought I had pushed my body to the limit. Before the period started, I put my hands on my knees and looked at my coach. He yelled to the whole gym “You train harder than this. Turn up!”

That third period I left my entire heart and soul on the mat. It was the most intense two minutes of my life. I scored 6 points, and only let him score one. I was losing, with the score being 15-17 (a very high scoring match), and there was 20 seconds left. I fought as hard as I could and scored the takedown (2 points) that would tie up the match.

Unfortunately, the ref ruled it out of bounds.

My coach went crazy. He tried pulling up film to prove that I had earned my points. But I knew

I had lost.

I got up, shook the other guy’s hand, and walked off the mat. Dropped my headgear, walked into the locker room, and sat there and cried like a little baby.

I had given it my all, and it still wasn’t good enough.

The other day I ran into the coach. We got to talking, and he mentioned this exact match. He told me that he remembers it as good as I do, because he has never seen anyone give as much as I did that day. He has coached national champion wrestlers, and my match, a loss, still stands out to him.

I learned from talking to him that the other guys started talking after my match. They were saying things like “If Kyle can do that, watch what I can do!” He told me that even though I had lost, I won the team dual for us.

I thought about that match every day for over a year. I looked all over for the film of the entire match but could only find pieces of it. Everyone was so excited, no one could sit still enough to record.

I learned so many lessons from this one match.

The most important lesson was loyalty. My coach was willing to be kicked out of the most important match of the season, just to stick up for me. Also, My entire team had my back, just like I always had theirs. I gave my all for them, and they returned the favor.

Another lesson that I learned is that there are levels to my ability. I thought that I had given it all before, but the third period showed that I had more. As long as I can still stand, I can still fight and I can still keep going.

I learned to take responsibility. Before that day, we had always been taught to never leave anything up to chance. I never once said “maybe the ref screwed me, and that takedown should’ve counted”. It was always “I should have handled my business, and not left it up to him”.