April 17, 2010 by David Gillaspie
You wrestlers, by the act of stepping on the mat with an opponent and a referee, have opened a can of worms that will hang around forever. Win or lose, the question remains: are you good enough?
By the simple act of stepping out on the mat with an opponent and a referee, you’ve answered the question for everyone who has ever done the same thing: Yes, you’re good enough, which means you’re better than everyone who has never wrestled, every man, woman, and child.
You take a turn on your feet, a turn on top, and a turn on the bottom. You take a turn getting pinned, getting pointed, then winning on points and eventually pinning.
Are you good enough? There’s your answer.
But the non-wrestling world doesn’t care if you’re good enough. You could go undefeated for thirteen years, go unscored on for a decade and win three Olympic gold medals like Alexander Karelin, and someone’s going to ask, “How did you lose to the over-weight American?”
Don’t bother with the reminders that Rulon was within his weight class, that Karelin is called ‘The Experiment’ for a reason. He may not have come out of the BALCO labs like Barry Bonds, allegedly, but from appearances he might have walked past.
By appearances, Rulon Gardner looks like he walked past many a barbeque, then turned around for some of that grub. The guy went to Nebraska, you know he’s had some fine beef.
Does Rulon get the question about being good enough? He went from gold to bronze four years after Karelin. Two Olympic medals, and some jerk will ask what happened? The good news is he won two medals; the bad news is the questioner usually has an empty trophy case except for the ‘Most Inspirational’ ribbon from PeeWee baseball and an empty juice box from rec-league soccer.
Are you good enough to wrestle one match? One season? Through high school? College? You’ll know the truth. The answer is yes. Wrestle once and you’ll know. But try explaining it to others.
Do all wrestlers a favor and never ask another athlete if they’re good enough. The guy on the end of the bench of the district champion basketball team says yes, even if they never played. The kid in the dugout of the city league champion baseball team who can’t hit, throw, or catch, says yes. Their team results speak for them.
How does getting stomped in a wrestling match make you good enough? Well it doesn’t if you only have one match; it does if you have two. If you come back from a thrashing and get thrashed again, you’re good enough. You know what happened the first time and came back for another try. You can’t measure that in terms of pride, heart, or being good enough. That’s all you.
Prove that you’re good enough by taking the wrestling lesson where ever you go. Do well in class? Credit wrestling. Graduate with honors? Thank wrestling. Go to college and graduate? Another benefit of wrestling. Hang with a good crowd, find a job, meet someone special? It’s all wrestling.
You can’t call one practice in the wrestling room the turning point of your life, even if it is. No other sport has that impact. You can explain it away and end up sounding like zealot, or internalize it and use the experience to guide the big decisions coming your way.
Which school will you attend? Which job will you focus on? Which area of the country will you live? Most important, use the experience for the biggest decision of your life: Who will you marry? As long as they understand wrestling, you’ll make the right call.