Wrestling In The House

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November 28, 2010 by David Gillaspie

This House


What do you call the moment you outgrow your old fears, and new ones aren’t quite pressing enough to call a real fear yet?


“Best tournament ever.  My third guy was ranked.  He was out of shape and gassed in the third round.”

What do you call the moment you outgrow your old fears, take a breath, and relax?


“After practice, lets drive over to the off-campus housing.”

What do you call the moment you ignore your old fears and stop caring one way or the other?


“What’s the difference man, it’s all the same.”

Do you see outgrowing fear as a challenge?  If you do, then you know that overcoming any real obstacle is a challenge.  Once you see fear as an obstacle to overcome, you are free.

To paraphrase Dan Gable,

“Freedom isn’t for everyone, but it should be.”

Fear drifts through the air; some take a deep breath of it, some don’t.  It’s a choice.

The fear-intoxicated have a hard time warming up.  They’re a little shocky.  They don’t say much.  They know how it will end.  Maybe it’s nothing new.

Yet, they want to do better. 

“I never beat this guy, and it’s not getting any easier.  I’ll try a new move.” 

Another strain of the same fear is the chatter-box.  They know they have no chance.  They know they’re the weak link.  So does everybody else, because he tells them.

The sacrificial lamb keeps things loose.

“My guy was a state champ for three month olds and holds a world weight-lifting record for six year olds.  He’s never lost to anyone from our school in anything and this is our eighth time.  He’s 8-0.  I’m 0-8.  It just works out that way.  I’ll be 0-9 soon enough, but he’s the only one who makes me think like this.”

You know fear is in all the air.  There’s no special place to breathe more fear, or less.  It’s spread out.  You knew that.

With a fear-constant, it’s easier to see a win/loss record as the evidence of challenging it. 

More wins means overcoming more fears.  Is it that easy?  In a word, yes.

You blast through tournaments because you’re not afraid to get up and run early.

You crush your opponents consistently because you’re not afraid to eat right and get enough rest.

You lead your team without any extra effort because doing the right thing is just as hard as doing the wrong thing, so why not?

My best example of the right guy is a wrestler I saw at college the year I got out of the Army.  He was a heavyweight now, but lighter in high school.  I was the same weight, so I wrestled one of the greats of the era when he was a 190 pounder.

We both agreed he was great.  Anytime a college sophomore wins a heavyweight NCAA D1 title weighing 220 pounds is a great time.  How good was this guy?

One way to tell the greatness of an athlete is whether he makes those around them better.  In basketball and football it means making the right pass, or reading the right block.  

Wrestling is a little different: if you don’t get better wrestling against the great of an era in the practice room, you’re going to get hurt.  You have to get better, and fast, before it’s too late. 

He made a lot of guys better.

Most Falls, Career  

110 Al Sears, hwt, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, 1982-85.

106 Wade Schalles, 150-158, Clarion, 1970-73.

95 Larry Bielenberg, hwt, Oregon State, 1974-77.

87 Howard Harris, hwt, Oregon State, 1977-80.

I had one match with Larry Bielenberg.  We tied at the Junior National Greco Championships.  I threw him, he threw me, I stalled the rest of the match.  I didn’t run away to save a tie, but if I did, I had a chance to win a title by pinning the guy he beat on points during the championship round robin.

That’s how it was supposed to work out.

Three years later, when Oregon still had a team, Terry Shanley ran on the university campus and stopped when I called out hello.  He said he had a match with Bielenberg at the next UO vs OS dual.  Larry was the defending heavyweight champ and a pinner

“How do you get ready for that guy?” I asked. 

“It’s a challenge.  It’s a challenge for everyone, not just me.  He’s one of the greats you measure yourself against.  At the end of the day, you’ll remember wrestling the greats more than anyone else.  You said Gable came over and worked out with the Oregon All-Star team when you guys went to Iowa?  That’s a great memory I’ll never have, but I’ll have one of going against Larry.”

I looked at the kid I knew in grade school, a guy I saw at high school tournaments after he moved to another town, and I didn’t see a kid anymore.

He was a grown-up man.  He knew the challenge and wanted his shot.  He knew the risks and liked his chances.

Look at guys around you who draw the toughest guys from other teams and you might see shock or hear chatter, but sometimes you see The Man who throws his best at the best every chance he gets.

You are free to give it a try

  ll-American at Oregon State University. National heavyweight champion 1975. 51 consecutive victories in 1977. Ranked third all-time in NCAA history.


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