By: Mike Chapman
Originally Published in: Wrestling Tough
Provided by: Human Kinetics
Do you love hand-to-hand combat? Do you love meeting a tough opponent in the center of the mat in front of a live audience, prepared to fight? Do you love going toe-to-toe with another person who wants to throw you down and kick your butt?
We have got to love it! We have got to be willing to put ourselves out there! We have got to generate the courage to go all-out! Give everything we have to give! I pity the poor souls that "hold back" for fear they may not achieve their ultimate goals. They think, "Why give it everything I have? I might not achieve what I am going after."
Love, desire, passion, and courage are what it takes! Think about it; it's when we want something so bad we tend to put it before almost everything.
I wonder how much desire Cael Sanderson had during his four years at Iowa State where he went undefeated, winning four NCAA titles. I wonder if his passion changed when he adjusted his goals preparing to win an Olympic gold medal in Athens. I wonder how much courage it took to take the Penn State job - with all the pressure and expectations associated with it - and win an NCAA team title. I wonder how much he loves this sport.
While I was sitting in seat 56B in the very last row on a Lufthansa flight speeding toward Dortmund, Germany, to scout the European Championships, I decided to watch the in-flight movie, Secretariat. For those of you who did not see the movie, it is about the great champion horse who won the Triple Crown (in 1975). The one line in the movie that really hit home with me was the statement: "Secretariat just loves to run!"
When I think back on my 13-year wrestling career that was filled with many ups and downs, I remember how much I loved to wrestle.
I was inspired for some reason. Maybe it was my middle school coach, Frank Stagg, who taught me to love it. Maybe it was my high school coaches, Robert Morrell and Masaaki Hatta, who inspired me to enjoy the battle. Maybe it was my University of Michigan teammate, Mark Churella, who motivated me to adore the game.
I look back and think about how in the world I ever enjoyed the two-hour grind matches that Churella and I did routinely. Why did I keep coming back to the wrestling room, where we busted heads every day, brawling and scrapping and clashing to the bitter end? Exhausting and torturing our bodies to a point where the shower after practice stung my raw skin. How? Why?
I will tell you how and why. It is because I loved it! We loved it! We loved wrestling more than just about anything else. That's why Churella became a three-time NCAA champion and one of the most successful wrestlers ever to wear a University of Michigan singlet (and tights back then).
Think about it - we did two hours of punishing live wrestling without a break almost each and every day. And keep in mind during these two-hour nonstop grueling wrestling practices, Churella and I were both trying to crush each other. We both wanted to dominate the other. I guarantee you, Churella had no mercy when he got on top, threw in the legs, and tried to split me in two. And by the way, we were best of friends. We wanted to destroy each other, but we did it with a bit of a smile.
Churella used to obliterate me when we first started training together. However, this is when I started to get better. Every day, I started to learn some of his best moves, and then I started to actually score on him with his own stuff. That inspired me.
I was improving so much I could hardly believe it. And not only was I learning some of Churella's best techniques, I was learning something even more import-ant and beneficial. I was starting to acquire Churella's "killer instinct." And let me tell you, Mark Churella had the killer instinct in spades.
The key to my career was that I submerged myself completely, "hook, line, and sinker," into the game of wrestling. And when I saw my improvement from week-to-week and month-to-month, it inspired me.
So, just like Secretariat loved to run...we have got to love to wrestle!
Reprinted with permission of Steve Fraser.
Summary If you love to do something, chances are strong that you will regard that activity as fun, even if it is very demanding. Although not everyone buys into that concept, this philosophy has taken root in college wrestling in recent years. And it can reduce stress and help create a positive mind-set, according to Randy Couture, a former three-time All-American wrestler at Oklahoma State who became a superstar in the world of MMA: "That way, I was able to alleviate a great deal of stress. I came to terms with the 'little voice' inside that controls what and how we think and makes us who we are. I learned to control that little voice and to just relax and enjoy the experience. Just have some fun out there."
Olympians such as Lou Banach and Cael Sanderson have adopted that viewpoint while Olympians J Robinson and Wayne Baughman still believe wrestling should not be viewed as fun but can be considered satisfying. Dan Gable and Ben Peterson, both Olympic champions in 1972, say the key is in how one defines the word fun. Each wrestler will have to make his or her own decision on how to best approach the sport.
If you don't love the sport and all it involves, there are still ways to participate at a high level, but that requires each individual to look deep into himself or herself and search for the answer. The risks are high, but so are the rewards.