The Build Up

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February 17, 2010 by David Gillaspie

Larry Owings, Dan Gable's only college loss, hangs first place district medal on Tyler Gillaspie while looking good in his purple University of Washington blazer.

Enjoy your achievement after you accomplish your goals.  Kick back and bask in the cheers.  Let the sun shine.  Feel the warm breeze.

While you’re at it, be sure and ask yourself what it is you’ve accomplished.

If you’ve ever raised a trophy overhead at the end of a season, you’ve built a championship.

If you’ve ever ridden in a convertible during a parade while others shower you with confetti, then you’ve built a fan base.

What have you done if you look back and see yourself leaning forward while an International Olympic Committee official, or any other official, hangs a wrestling gold medal around your neck?

It means more than a world championship.  More than a national championship.  It means more than a regional championship, but most would be glad to earn any of them.

What has an Olympic champion wrestler done that other athletes fail to acknowledge?  If you don’t have an easy answer, maybe that helps explain why wrestling struggles the way it does to stay current.

Like all old problems, wrestling needs to redefine itself for the Twenty First Century.  Unlike old problems, we have new criteria to use for definitions.  There are more ways to look at athletics than holding a top performer up as the face of the sport.

Start by asking if the world is better off without a sport like wrestling.  The easy answer is no. 

Ask if wrestling needs to change since it is sticking around so long.  Does it?  Yes.

Now it gets dicey.  How should wrestling change?  And who should do the changing?

This gets into an area that establishes polar opposites.  Some say the champions are the leaders, and everyone else should follow their example.

Others say the grass-roots organizers are the correct leaders.

Before you decide it’s best to meet somewhere in the middle, take a look at an example from another field.

If you’re sick enough to need a doctor, you want someone helpful.  The rash on your arm isn’t going away on its own, isn’t responding to over-the-counter itch cream.  It’s moved to your other arm.  You’re looking for some good advice.

The pal on the bus looked at it.  So did a friend in school.  A guy at work showed you his rash.  Nothing has changed from those three.  Your mom looked at it and tossed you some calamine lotion.  It didn’t help either.  You want to see a doctor.

Do you need a specialist?  An Ear, Eyes, and Throat doc?  A brain surgeon?  An acclaimed research doc?  Or do you need a GP, a general practitioner who has seen his share of bumps and redness?

Listen, you’re not looking for a kidney transplant.  You don’t need something amputated.  You’ve got a rash.  It’s annoying.  The lowly general practice guy at the urgent care fills the bill.  He’ll tell you your rash isn’t contact dermatitis; it isn’t poison oak.  It’s scabies.  He gives you the right goo and sends you home.  And it works.

You are itch-free and the doctor is a hero.

If you are a young wrestler learning your way around the mats, who do you need?  Is it John Smith coming in to teach a low single?  Is Dan Gable hustling over to show how to bar an arm?  Will Alexander Karelin fly in to teach a gut wrench?

What you need is a coach to show you correct position and balance.  You need him to show you how to anticipate an opponents reaction to your set-ups.  He’s already in your wrestling room.  Walk over and ask him after practice.  Get a workout partner to stay late so you can do some extra drills. 

Do that and the Smiths, Gables, and Karelins of the world smile on you.  Do that and your coach will see you in a different light.  He’ll see a wrestler who ‘gets it.’  You’ll be an athlete who walks the talk.

That’s nice, you say, but how does any of that change wrestling?  How does it stop the drops of college programs? 

When you change yourself, you change your attitude.  When you change your attitude, it changes those around you.  Immerse yourself in wrestling, or any other sport, and you are making a difference to your team.

How many times have you seen an unorthodox wrestler do weird stuff on the mat and come away wondering how they win?  You are watching someone who knows what works best for them, for their body type.  They asked for help and learned how to win. 

The beauty of wrestling is finding a style that fits you.  Do that and you are a leader in your room.  Add the necessities of strength, flexibility, and conditioning to your style and you will tear it up at your next meet. 

Do you need the experts?  The specialists?  The name brands?  Not as much as you need the coach with the whistle leaning against the wall in your practice room. 

Be great in your practice circle and the rest takes care of itself.  After that, if you have the itch for championships, you’ll find the right ointment on the podium.

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