by Jeremy Rees
I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I wrestled in high school and I wrestle in college. Lets be honest, I’m pretty sure most people reading this know me well enough to know that about me. It’s kind of crazy to think that I have one more year left in competitive sports. I’ve been competing my whole life and in about 8 months, that will all be part of my past. I often reflect on the sports I have played: teammates, exciting moments, coaches, etc. I’m sure this comes as a shock to nobody, but none has had a bigger, more profound influence on shaping the man I am, than wrestling.
For those of you who have never wrestled, there is nothing more demanding, or more rewarding, than this brutal sport. I know everyone likes to claim “Our practices are tough, there’s so much running” or “Ours are tougher, we have to be so well conditioned”. But I can 100% promise you that if there is a tougher sport than wrestling, I have yet to find it. A lot of athletes think they’re tough. Watching my beloved Bruins lose in game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals last night was heartbreaking. I don’t know if people realize this, but Patty Bergeron was playing with broken ribs. That takes heart, and that takes toughness. But it requires nowhere near the level of mental toughness that wrestlers endure.
Imagine being told, as a 17 year old kid, to roll two dice. Whatever number comes up, that’s how many minutes in a row you have to go swinging a 70 pound kettle bell over your head. Now imagine you roll snake eyes. Your coach makes you roll again. And again. And again. Oh what’s that? An 11 finally showed up? Okay that’ll work. Now imagine your done with that, and your coach tells you do 100 pull ups over the rest of the day. I don’t care how you divide them up, just get them done. Now imagine this is a Sunday, your one day off of the week and your missing watching the Patriots games with your friends because all you want to do is win states in 2 months. Now imagine all you’ve eaten in three days are a few granola bars and some celery, and you can’t eat anything until Tuesday night because you are still 7 pounds over weight. Now repeat this process every week for three months. Now repeat THAT process every year for 9 years. That’s wrestling.
Although I did not put myself through that same grueling ordeal every single weekend of my wrestling career with no exceptions, there were similar situations that I found myself in. My coach used to make me run sprints after our dual meets, because after wrestling one match for 45 seconds before I pinned someone, I needed more of a workout. He used to conduct full hour and a half practice BEFORE those dual meets. Wrestling is a grind. Even within the practice. I used to get the life beat out of me every day by kids on my team. I was one of the top ranked wrestlers in the state and every day I had to deal with the 140 pound all state champ (Walter, if you’re reading this, I can’t thank you enough) taking me down at will. I cried more after my senior year ended due to injury than I have ever cried before.
But the negative is what invokes the positive. One of the greatest moments I’ve experienced in my brief 21 years of life was winning the state title with my team my junior year. We were untouchable. The thrill of getting my arm raised of 6 (well, 7 now) minutes of misery is one of the most satisfying feelings ever. No drug can compete with the high you feel from winning a close match. From escaping with seconds left on the clock. From hitting a take down and hearing the crowd go, “Woah…”. From riding someone out to prevent them from tying the match. These are what make wrestlers different. Its something no other athlete will ever understand.
I hope nobody reads this and is offended, or interprets it as me insulting your sport. I don’t mean it like that. There’s simply no way around it: wrestlers are a rare breed, in a league of their own. Even if you never start on varsity, just being on a team, and being able to say that you cut 10 pounds the day before a match, even though you were on JV. Its a character building experience that few can imagine.
My glory days are long behind me. I’m an average wrestler in college with a career record of 18–18. I didn’t even start this year. My girlfriend, who plays Ice Hockey at Trinity, and I often argue about whether our kids will grow up playing hockey or wrestling. What she doesn’t realize is that I do not want them to wrestle so that I can live vicariously through them (well, not entirely). I want them to wrestle because I know that wrestlers are special. If you think I’m exaggerating, check it out. Step on the mat for 5 minutes. See if you can last 2 practices without breaking down. Few can, and it’s a true testament to the mental and physical strength of the competitor. Do I consider myself an athlete? No. I’m a wrestler.
Jeremy is a rising senior (class of 2014) at Trinity College in Hartford, CT. He has been a varsity wrestler there for each of his first three years of school, and posts a career record of 18–18. In high school, he was a member of the 2009 Division I state championship Framingham Flyers team. In high school he posted a career record of 108–16, he was a 3x state place winner and a 2x finalist. He was a 2013 Academic All American and senior captain at Framingham. He is majoring in mathematics and economics and enjoys reading in his spare time.
Originally published at wrestlingstories.org.