by Tyler Helms
I started wrestling in 8th grade. Weighing 110 pounds soaking wet, I was in no way, shape or form an athlete and had just come to the conclusion that I was never going to be a successful baseball player. My best friend was a wrestler so I decided to give it a try. When my first practice began, I had no idea what to expect, or even what wrestling was. It was at that practice I would first learn what wrestling shoes were. I was absolutely terrible and won only a handful of matches that year. For some unexplainable reason, I was drawn to the sport and would continue competing my freshman year of high school. Little changed from the end of my first season to the start of my second, and I was still quite bad. I ended that season with a losing JV record, but gained something greater than any accomplishment could have supplied me: my first passion.
That off-season was the first time I can remember genuinely working hard to accomplish something. School had typically come easy to me, and outside of my grades, there was nothing I could show for myself. My main focus was keeping my grades high enough to not merit complaining from my parents and killing time between school days. Now I had something that I wanted to do, something I wanted to get better in, I had something to push me. That summer I would develop my two favorite moves: the fireman’s carry and the hazard. Armed with a takedown and a turn, I began my sophomore year by winning my first tournament. It was a JV event that my high school hosted. It frankly was not a very large accomplishment, but it was a day I will never forget. My passion was growing.
As that season progressed I won most of my matches, and lost only a few. I found myself in an environment I had never been in before; I felt like a true member of a sports team and discovered an activity that would become a huge piece of my self-identity. That off-season I trained harder than the last and entered my junior year ready to crack the starting lineup for the first time. I wrestled in every dual meet and tournament that year from 140–152, wherever I could find a spot. We won the district duals that year, as we had the previous two. But this year was different, this year I contributed to the title and that feeling was uncomparable. I ended that season with a 34–8 record, a district title, and the most improved award at our team banquet. I now found something else I had never truly had before: something to be proud of.
My senior year came quickly and ended even faster. The season was filled with ups and downs. I placed third at the toughest tournament we attend, which I consider to be my biggest high school achievement, but ended in the biggest disappointment I had experienced at the time. An untimely illness ended my high school at sectionals, the first post-season event in the state of Pennsylvania. I remember crying in a corner of Boyertown High School for a fair amount of time before one of my coaches found me. This would not mark the end of my career however; I had already planned on attending Ursinus College the following year and knew that I was going to wrestle in college.
Wrestling in college was an accomplishment for me within itself. I spent most of high school never even imagining that one day I would be an NCAA athlete. The chance to continue my passion was too good to pass up. My freshman season was forgettable, I won a few matches I should have and lost a few. The senior captain made it essentially impossible to break the line-up in any duals that mattered so I focused on getting better. I learned what hand fighting was really all about, how to get out on bottom, different leg attacks and how to ride well. I found myself becoming pretty good on top. But none of those things were anywhere near as important as what I really learned that year. I learned how to focus a passion to a level I had not previously realized. My biggest take away from that year: success takes sacrifice.
My next season I came in the strongest, the fastest, and the most in shape I have ever been in my life. At this point, my passion for the sport was at a maximum. This season was plagued with ups and downs and a handful of injuries. I won some matches against wrestlers I never thought I could have beaten and lost a few that I should not have. The season ended in disappointment and something happened as I moved into my junior year. My passion was gone.
I would stop wrestling a week into my junior season. I am not sure why I lost the interest required to push me through another college season. But all I know is I didn’t want to wrestle anymore. My passions were shifting and refocusing in other areas. It was only after I finished wrestling that I would understand everything the sport had taught me and how the sport is hugely responsible for making me into the person I am today. I became a Resident Adviser and found myself really enjoying it and caring a lot about my job and the kids I was responsible for. But the work ethic I needed to handle a job of that caliber came from the sport I had left weeks prior. Today, I have found myself with new passions and interests to pursue. I understand now what it will take to leave the impact I plan on leaving. Wrestling has shown me, not only what it takes, but that I can do it. Without a doubt, wrestling was one of the most important experiences I have had in terms of my personal development and growth. The old cliché holds true “Once you’ve wrestled, everything else is easy”-Dan Gable
Tyler Helms is from Cochranville Pennsylvania and wrestled for Octorara Area High School, where he was a district champion. He then went to Ursinus College where he wrestled his freshman and sophomore years and studied Physics.
Originally published at www.wrestlingstories.org.