September 27, 2010 by David Gillaspie
(Guest Post written by Mark Munson, a former assistant at Portland State University during their national championship runs. PSU has since dropped wrestling from their athletic department. Initially published in USA Wrestling. )
First let me begin by relating what, for many former wrestlers, is a common experience: You walk into a public place, perhaps a mall or a grocery store.
You are wearing something that identifies you as a wrestling partisan. Maybe it’s your old letterman’s jacket or a souvenir tournament T-shirt.
You are soon approached by a complete stranger who inquires about your wrestling background. Before long you’re both relating old wrestling stories to each other.
This man may have wrestled 30 or more years ago, but, the memories are still so fresh in his mind he relates them as if they occurred yesterday. Like old Marines reliving boot camp, wrestlers connect in a secret brotherhood that few outsiders can understand.
Wrestlers and former wrestlers of all ages share an indestructible bond. The shared sacrifice of the most demanding of sports has etched an indelible imprint on their souls. The bond that wrestler’s share transcends not only age, but race, creed and social status. It’s a bond that time can never erase.
Sports have always served to break down social barriers. Naturally wrestling, because of its personal nature, hastens this process. In an increasingly fragmented society, where people are continually being divided into a variety of subgroups based on their race, religion or age, it is both refreshing and enlightening to visit a local wresting club.
At the local club level members from inner-city neighborhoods join with members from rural areas and the suburbs to jointly strive towards a common goal. The membership of these teams represents a true cross-section of modern America. Their bond reaches across age, race, economic status and even gender to form a microcosm of a true rainbow society.
These athletes also bring their parents, loved ones and fans together. As these wrestling boosters cheer their kids on and work collectively to support their wrestler’s efforts, the ancient lies and invisible barriers are quietly crushed under wrestling’s brutal truth and honesty.
Wrestling’s code is simple: DISCIPLINE vs. REGRET.
In wrestling a young man soon learns the direct correlation between hard work and success. Wrestling is a sport stripped of pretense. Imposters blanch as would be deceivers are soon revealed by wrestling’s harsh light.
Only the most dedicated endure.
Elemental truths are revealed to the faithful who realize that some things can only be learned by facing the most difficult of challenges unblinkingly. Wrestling demands much from its participants. Our sport is uncompromising in that respect.
For many youths, wrestling represents a childs first tentative steps toward manhood. For the first time in their lives they begin to understand the meaning of fidelity and commitment. Perhaps this is why many fathers stay active in the sport. They are trying to instill in their sons the first lessons of manhood.
As a man ages, he enters the complex world of adulthood. The line between right and wrong can become blurred. The sharp colors and emotions of youth wane and the idealistic issues of adolescence fade.
A man can never recapture his youth. Physical abilities will diminish as no man can stop the ravages of time; but, I truly believe that the lessons and skills learned by wrestlers will last a lifetime. A man may not be able to recapture his youth but perhaps he can recapture who he once was.
Strip away the baggage of adulthood from any former wrestler and you will still find the passionate soul of a warrior.