Being a competitor was instilled in me at a very young age. I grew up playing three sports; wrestling, football and baseball. Wrestling quickly became the sport that I drifted toward more than the other two. Why? I personally believe it was because I could compete on a national stage. I had success at a young age not just within the state, but even against the best kids in the country. My parents noticed that, and started driving me over an hour to a wrestling club to seek out better coaching. Prior to finding this club, my coach was my Dad. My Dad has had a huge influence on my wrestling, but when it came to the technical part of the sport, I surpassed my dad’s knowledge in elementary school. When I was in the 6th grade, I had decided that I wanted to be the best wrestler I could be. I started to take it very seriously. I set a goal for myself, to win the high school state tournament as a 7th grader. When I started talking about that goal, many people scolded me. Even kids from my own school, winning state as a 7th grader had only been done 3 times. All 3 of those kids had moved in from out of state, I was born and raised in the same town of 1000 people. Even at that age, I believed in myself and understood I had to earn it.
Wrestling season rolled around my 7th grade year. I wanted to wrestle 106 pounds, and I was weighing about 125 pounds. Keep in mind, I am 12/13 years old, meaning I didn’t have hardly any fat on my body and it was not easy for me to sweat. As you can see, it was a very long season for me off the mat. I spent countless hours cutting weight. In fact, I would spend 3/4 nights a week with my coach or dad riding an aerodyne bike until nearly midnight. I would be in tears because I thought it was too hard for me. I didn’t say a word to anybody at school. The only thing that kept me going was my performance on the mat. The weight cut did not affect the way I wrestled. I had a tremendous season, only losing one match all year to a kid from Iowa. It was in the finals of the Holiday tournament, which is considered more difficult than the state tournament. I had beaten the number one kid in the state in my division, but also the number one kid in the division above me. I was the kid to beat in the post season, just a young 7th grade kid that was told countless times before he couldn’t compete at this level as a 7th grader. I ended up winning the state title that year, and it might have been one of the most satisfying moments of my life. How many hours my coach spent with me cutting weight and trying to talk me out of not quitting. It probably weighed more on him than it did me. To be able to win that state title, it meant more than just accomplishing a goal.
I told this story for a couple reasons, one because it was the start of my journey. My journey has been revolved around wrestling. But two, it taught me an important life lesson at a very young age. That lesson is ownership. As I get older, I start to realize how important taking ownership is in my life. In the 6th grade, I set a very lofty goal. After I set that goal, I knew it was up to me to achieve that. Don’t get me wrong, I had some of the best people in the world supporting me. But in the end, I had to make the decision to put in the work. I was the one wrestling the matches. Win or lose it was on me and nobody else.