This trip down the memory lane takes place in my senior year. I was 171 pounds of pure heart and determination. This was MY year. I was going to be the best.
Unfortunately, our dreams don’t always come true. Mine did not, at least. I battled a shoulder injury that severely limited my workouts and mobility, costing me at least one match over the course of the season.
I managed somehow to make it one tournament away from the state tournament, the District Round as we call it in Ohio.
I dropped my first match that day, to put me in the consolation bracket. I was out of contention for any of the places that would get me to state by some twist of the person who made the bracket’s imagination.
This was going to be my last match. Win or lose, it was over after this.
When you’re playing a sport, you never have time to sit down and think “This is all going to end someday.” You live in the moment, live for the next play, the next match.
That couldn’t happen after this.
I sat alone in the locker room as other matches were going on, holding my headgear in my hand and thinking to myself, “You’ve had a good run over six years; too bad you can’t go out on top.”
Realistically, the only way I’d be able to say that I was the best to win the Ohio State Tournament. That wasn’t going to happen that year, nor any other year of my wrestling career.
I started to cry and a teammate walked in, trying to comfort me but I told him to leave. Soon after my girlfriend at the time entered the locker room (what she was doing in the men’s locker room remains, even to this day, a mystery) and put her arm around me.
She did the one thing that I could hope for, all she did was hold me while I sobbed my eyes out in preparation for the end.
I ended up losing the next match, by medical forfeit as my shoulder popped out of place. Not the way I wanted my career to end, but the trainer wouldn’t listen to my pleas to finish the match because it was the last one I’d have.
It’s really heartbreaking letting go of some things. And I know that sports aren’t life and death. But they ARE life to some of us.
When you wrestle, you wrestle with more than just your opponent, you wrestle with your own weakness, your own inner demons.
You love it and you hate it at the same time. You love bonding with your teammates but you hate all the work that you have to put into it.
Ask me again about that last year ?
Well, I’d kill to get that last year back, to make it count.