Wrestling: Having chased a dream

Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,

Something in me changes when I walk into “the room”. That familiar smell of resilite or dollamur mat, watered down bleach, sweat, blood. The heat.

I roll my neck. Feel it crack. Shrug my shoulders up towards my ears.

My heart beats faster, then slows to a familiar rhythm because my days of competing are long past. But I still feel at home on a wrestling mat.

It feels like my own bed after a week of traveling.

I was asked by an old friend if I would come do a clinic for a local private prep school wrestling team. I agreed, eager to be near it again. I did that this evening. As the coaches introduced me to the boys I reflected on the fact that it’s been 20 years since I stood alone on a mat. 

The glory of it all. The loneliness of it. The real suffering that happened behind the scenes. Those things flooded back. It’s still fresh in my psyche like it was yesterday. But it’s been 20 years.

I moved on with my life. Mostly. 

I went easy on the boys at the school tonight. I taught them a few things. Worked them harder than they’re used to. That was how I set myself apart as an athlete back then. I outworked everyone else. No question about it. It’s how I coached when I was a head coach years ago. Push beyond your limits. Way beyond them. But know when to take your foot off of the gas before the whole thing blows up. 

It’s a fine line. I’ve been frustrated my whole triathlon career because I don’t approach that same line I used to teeter on as a wrestler. I love triathlon, but not the way I loved wrestling.

I talked about pace in practice. Both slow when you’re trying to learn, and fast when it’s time to work.

“You don’t need 20 takedowns from you feet,” I said. “Camp moves are fun. But solid fundamentals – being GREAT at just a few, maybe 3, is what will win you championships.”

Inside single. Outside single. Snap down. 

I talked about the importance of drilling those core fundamental moves 100’s of times daily. Over and over. Until it’s second nature. An impulse.

It’s that twitch I still get when I watch.

It’s the muscle spasms in my sleep. 

It’s 20 long years and my blood is still the same.

Someday when I’m old I’ll tell the stories to your children about the glory days and my heart will race and I’ll smile – having chased a dream, caught it, and reflected upon for a lifetime. Sometimes I wrestle with the memory itself.

Don’t live in the past. Certainly let go of the ugly parts. But don’t forget the beauty of the things you earn.

I love you,

– Daddy


Sat: Ran 57 minutes, mostly trail miles

Sun: Rode 20 miles

Mon: rest

Tues: Ran 4 miles with 4 x .25 mile repeats