Basketball—forty minutes. Football—sixty minutes. Baseball—180 minutes. These sports capture our attention for hours. We talk about them by the proverbial water cooler, or, in the case of the Cornhuskers, we talk about them wherever we happen to find ourselves. They are lengthy discussions. After all, a three-pointer, turnover, or a grand slam can turn the game on its head. But…what if you watched something that just a movement of two inches changes the result from victory into defeat?
Wrestling, most of the time, seems like the proverbial younger brother of the other sports. It’s most dedicated followers live mostly in pockets of the Midwest. The matches themselves do not last for hours but mere minutes. If one watches closely enough, each minute can seem an eternity.
Traveling to the NAIA national championships in Des Moines, Iowa, was a fascinating experience. For those whose attention spans are “challenged,” it is the sport of kings. Six mats. Seven minutes. Eight young men who will make “All-American” in their respective weight divisions. Each moment was racked with tension. In the end, the person who struck perfectly had his hand lifted in the air.
I met with a number of parents over the course of three days. As they talk, you sense the pride that they have in their sons who are showcased in feats of strength and quickness. Of course the pride in their eyes is mixed with well-hidden fear. Wrestling is not a sport for the faint of heart. Every joint is twisted. Arms are bent at angles that would break tree limbs. Bodies are slammed to the mat in an almost felonious manner. The matches are like sprinting marathons. After seven minutes, sweat pours from the contestants. The men seem as if they are almost too weak to move. Of course they have to get ready for another couple of matches that day.
Concordia’s wrestlers filled me with pride. They were fierce and yet honorable. When each match was done, they would rise from the mat, win or lose, and go shake the opponent’s coach’s hand. I remember when Julian Silva lost one of his matches, his mouth bloodied and body spent, he rose up on one knee and then another. It was almost as if Sisyphus was pushing the boulder up the hill. He approached the coach and then went out of his way to shake the other wrestler’s hand who had defeated him.
It’s that moment that signifies wrestling. Two men battling and spending themselves, and then rising up to honor the effort. Adam, Alex, Jake, Brandon, Alfredo, Seth, Julian, and Brandon made me proud to be a Bulldog. Three are All-American’s—Adam, Jake, and Julian, but they are all men. If you have a chance to congratulate them, please do. They showed incredible honor to themselves, their families and their university last weekend—if only for seven minutes at a time.
After rereading the experiences at the national tournament, one always remembers something that he should have said, but didn’t. Hind-sight, is not twenty/twenty, but sometimes moments will flash and you realize something that was glaring. I suppose that’s one nice thing about being able to add something in the future.
Dillon Heesch, our heavyweight wrestler, proved to be an outstanding competitor at the national meet. In his first two matches, he pinned both wrestlers within a minute. I talked to him shortly before his second match, and he didn’t say much. He was completely focused, his eyes not leaving the mat even when he was answering my questions.
In Dillon’s next match, he severely injured his elbow. You could sense the pain that he was in, and beyond all amazement, he wrestled even being hampered by only using one arm. Try swimming sometime with one arm and see how effective you are. Dillon fought through it gracefully. He was certainly disappointed, but you could sense pride in the fact that he battled through the pain and never gave up. He fell just short of All-American status, losing in the “heart-break” round. Yet his heart was strong though an arm didn’t work perfectly. We were all very proud of Dillon and he certainly deserved special mention for his efforts during that weekend. I am truly sorry for omitting you from the first story.
Again, we are proud of all of our wrestlers. They were true ambassadors that weekend and wonderful reminders of the true spirit of competition. We’ll keep you informed of more stories as they come down the line.