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July 28, 2010 by David Gillaspie

The first time you feel it, you learn what you’ve got to work with.

A sense of dread and uncertainty, the fear of the unknown the crawls up on you when you don’t understand what’s being asked of you the first time, but you know you’ve got to do something.

The language is foreign, the demands unrealistic.

And it’s loud.

Am I talking about a trip to Russia, or a first wrestling match?

A short haired sweating man stands near you screaming.

It could be either place.

“Set up.  Set up and shoot, shoot.  Get heavy.  Work up the body.”

It’s either a KGB interrogator or a wrestling coach, maybe both.

What is certain, if it’s a wrestling match, is you’ve got to do something and do it now.  Hopefully you’ve got the right tools for the job.

But what are they?

If you’ve spent one hour in a wrestling room, you know the answer.  A single leg takedown, an arm bar, and a half nelson will take you straight to the top.

Those are the physical tools.  Everyone has them.

What everyone doesn’t have is knowing when to use them.  Call that the mental tool.

For example, it’s safe to say most Americans have scribbled with a color crayon.  If it’s done in a coloring book two things happen:  you’re either in the lines or outside the lines.

If you’re an artist you blur the lines, but most people move on to other things before that happens.  They aren’t a Rembrandt quick enough so they feel art isn’t important enough to waste time on.

These are the people who put art on the chopping block when schools face budget problems.  These are same ones who look at a Picasso abstract and pass it off as so much scribbling from a fake.  Would they feel that way if they’d seen his early representational work?


A wrestler blurs the lines if they stay in the sport long enough.  They learn the fundamentals, then with the insight from good coaching, find what works best for their body type.

But most athletes quit wrestling before that happens.  Football is more regimented, basketball flashier, and baseball more out of doors.  And they are all on television.

The wrestlers who adapt themselves to the sport expand the scope of human potential.  They started out like everyone else, getting their behinds handed to them until they decided to do what it takes to get better or quit.

They get good, then great.

They become artists like Rick Sanders and the Askrens, or industrial powerhouses like Dan Gable and those who follow in his footsteps.

Does that mean you’ll become a Rick Sanders, an Askren, or a Gable?  Of course not, you’ll be better than them.  That’s the sort of thinking you get when you apply the right tools.

Even if you stop wrestling after high school the tools you gained will give insight so you can make the best decisions possible going forward in your life.  That’s the dividend, the payout, from wrestling.

Spend it wisely.


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