My most important win, and my only win, as a college wrestler, did not occur in a gym on a wrestling mat, it occurred off-campus, on my kitchen floor.
It was the fall of 1983; I was a freshman at college.
My father was out of work for a couple of years before I went off to college.
Money was tight, real tight.
When my parents dropped me off at Southern Connecticut University and handed me a bag of food, it was understood that bag of food needed to last for a while.
There was no meal plan.
My meal plan was that bag of food.
A bag, which on the first night in the house I left unprotected.
To my dismay, when I awoke the next morning, my food was gone.
I made the mistake of asking my new roommates, “Who ate my food?” in front of everybody.
And of course, it was the wrestler who weighed 220 pounds.
Back then I only weighed 126 pounds.
I said, “Listen, all you had to do was ask, I would have let you have some of my food.”
He said, “Nah, it doesn’t work that way.”
I said, “What?”
He said: “It doesn’t work that way. I will eat your food whenever I want to eat your food.”
To galvanize his point that he could do whatever he wanted, without any fear of retribution, he swatted my head as he walked by me.
He then made the mistake of turning his back on me and dismissing me.
As soon as he turned his back on me, I lowered my shoulder and I rammed it into the small of his back.
He fell, face first, to the ground.
I knew what was coming next.
He got up and he beat the heck out of me for a few minutes.
He continued to do this until he thought he got his point across. The point being that he was going to eat my food, and there was nothing that I could do or say that was going to stop him from doing so.
He eventually got up, turned around, and started to walk away thinking he was victorious.
I also got back up and I rammed my lower shoulder into the small of his back again.
And the process repeated itself for a few more minutes — he beats the heck out of me, I get up, he turns his back on me and I ram my shoulder into the small of his back and he falls, face first, onto the floor.
On about the sixth cycle of this process, he decided he needed to teach me a lesson.
As I was approaching to annoyingly put my shoulder into the small of his back for the sixth time, he turned around and viciously head locked me. My feet flew above my head and on the way down they landed on the edge of the kitchen table with such force I thought I had broken my leg. I had never experienced such pain in my life. I mean the pain just shot through my body almost pleading with me, begging me to stop getting back up, to just lay there.
Which, I did.
As my oxygen was being cut off by his intense vice grip on my head, I played possum.
I played dead.
I made believe I submitted.
It was the only way out.
And it worked.
He not so gingerly got off me and walked away.
He never even considered looking over his shoulders to see if I was going to attack him a seventh time.
That was a mistake on his part.
This time I allowed him to get a few feet further away from me so I could get a running start, then I rammed my shoulder into the small of his back again for the seventh time.
With the running start, I was able to build up enough force to jackknife his back when I exploded into him.
This time I was quick to my feet and was able to get away from his grasp when I said to him, “I don’t care what you do to me. You are not going to eat my food unless I give you permission.”
I didn’t care about the consequences. I could take any physical beating.
He was nearly one hundred pounds heavier than I, it only made sense that he could physically dominate me.
I knew he was going to beat the heck out of me until he felt I was going to stay down on my own, so his power over me would continue without his body having to physically be on top of me, keeping me down.
But I wasn’t going to let him mentally dominate me.
That I could control.
At this point, he had a decision to make. He either could never turn his back on me again or go away and decide it was not worth his effort.
He confused having physical dominance over me with having mental dominance over me.
He may have physically outweighed me by one hundred pounds but mentally he was no match for me.
I was going to get up and fight every time I got knocked down.
No matter what physical beating he laid on me, he was never going to get to my will.
He realized the same thing. He turned to me and said, “You’re crazy man, it’s just not worth it.”
And he called a truce.
Life is the same way.
There are events that will absolutely dominate you in life, but you can never let them seep into your soul and break your will.
Belief, confidence, enthusiasm, optimism, hope, these traits you need to protect like a king’s treasure, for they are more valuable than any currency in life.
There are days life is going to try to eat your food.
And the honest truth is, it can.
You only have two choices.
The first being, to sit back, let it happen, and let your will be broken.
And the other is to fight back, knowing you are going to take a beating, but your will and soul will remain whole.
Always fight back.
The beatings stop and the wounds will heal.
Broken wills, seldom do.
Sometimes, giving it all you have is enough.
Every time you get up and fight, it takes the fun out of it for life.
All life wants is to know you will stay down without it even having to be there, keeping you down.
Once it realizes your will is strong and you will get up every time it knocks you down, it will move on because it can’t accomplish what it set out to do.
And that is to dominate your soul.
Which you, and only you alone, control.
Eventually, life will just move on to something else.
And your soul will flourish.
An excerpt from Wrestling Writing
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