by Jeffrey Ott
There comes a time in every young wrestler’s budding career when he or she reaches a fork in the road. The option of quitting wrestling is a very real, and often, very attractive option. You watch any interview with an elite level wrestler focusing on their early exposure to the sport. The phases, “butt handed to me,” and “teeth kicked in,” are referenced in almost every interview. I would like to take this opportunity to share my belief on why you should wrestle. Wrestling teaches a myriad of life lessons that are difficult to learn at such a young age.
1. Humility/Perspective Wrestling is a sport of highs and lows. There is nothing more humbling than having another person, your same size and age, beat you in the purest test of physical ability.
I have stood on the top of podiums, but I have also watched many medal rounds from the stands. Wrestling teaches young men and women the importance of taking life’s triumphs in stride, while also handling the disappointments with maturity and viewing them as valuable learning experiences.
2. Accountability In many aspects of childhood, cutting corners can persist unnoticed. However, when these “do as little as possible” habits extend into later stages of life, problems will inevitably arise. Wrestling is a sport that requires vigilance surrounding many aspects of life including diet, sleep, and time management. Wrestling teaches that cutting corners actually stifles progress.
3. Dealing with Adversity Life is full of uncertainty. You are always a hair away from a life-changing event. When adversity strikes, you have two choices. You can let the adversity define you, or you grow from the opportunity to face adversity. Injuries and heartbreaking losses are opportunities to test your mettle. The key to transforming adversity into opportunity comes from understanding that there are things you can control and things you cannot control. You cannot control the controversial call that did not go your way. However, you can control how you maintain your composure and stick to your game plan through the next period.
Dwelling on the past, will only extend the future suffering. When you find yourself inundated by the shadow of adversity take a step back. Then, understand your emotions. Recognize the importance of avoiding similar situations. Make a game plan moving forward. Execute and stick to your game plan!
4. Friends The grueling nature of wrestling has fostered my strongest friendships. Until you’ve donated multiple swimming pools worth of sweat in the name of a common goal, it is difficult to understand the intimacy that exists between wrestling teammates. Among wrestlers there is strong mutual respect
5. Passion I believe that each person should have something that gets them out of bed in the morning. Something that gives you a feeling of purpose. Something that you are truly passionate about. For myself and many others, wrestling fits these criteria to a T.
6. Goal Achievement Winning is great! But, it doesn’t happen by accident. Larger goals, such as state championships are an amalgamation of all the little process goals that an individual has set and achieved. Wrestling teaches that any goal is attainable, if you are set smaller goals that will get you to where you want to be, than stick to your goals. This ability to turn a far off dream into a tangible reality is an eye opening realization.
7. You’ll become a role model If you can stick to wrestling and learn the lessons outlined above, you will undergo tremendous personal growth. If these smaller process goals are completed in good faith you will be someone that can positively impact the lives of others. Learn the lessons that wrestling can teach, and share them with the rest of the world.
As Jake Herbert, one of the best ambassadors for the sport of wrestling, once said, “Wrestling is more than just a sport; it’s a tool that develops our youth into successful, passionate and driven adults. Wrestlers make the world a better place.”
As Jake Herbert said, wrestling will change your life. It will improve you as a person. Wrestling will demand a lot from you up front, but the lessons that you will learn will irrevocably improve you as a person for rest of your life. You should wrestle because you will become a better version of who you are today.
Finding my Alarm Clock
by Jeffrey Ott JULY 6, 2014
I am a twenty-year-old division I athlete at Harvard University. I perform well in the classroom, hold several jobs, and maintain a fantastic friend group. In many people’s eyes I’ve got it all figured out. And until recently, I thought I did.
I mentioned that I am an athlete. More precisely, I am a wrestler, a title that has defined me throughout my life. Like any contact sport, wrestling has its share of injuries.
Thankfully, I have had only minor interactions with the injury bug throughout my career. But, in the opening tournament this past year my playing with fire caught up with me.
I took the prescribed time off from wrestling before returning for the final three months of the season. Seven months removed from the initial injury, it was clear that surgery was the best option. This meant a total of eight months away from wrestling. As a person who has given and received so much from a sport, this news hit me really hard.
Without wrestling, what made me special? What do I have to offer without wrestling? Would people still like me? These and many more thoughts swirled within my vulnerable head. I was insecure, and looking for purpose.
It was at this point where I realized the true value of wrestling. Wrestling had been my passion, my craft, my alarm clock.
However, this story now takes a positive turn, the injury I sustained during my sophomore year opened my eyes for a new appreciation of our world. I will never take health for granted. In fact, during the weekend before my surgery when I was allowed to do any physical activity I wanted, I went running, hiking, skydiving, and night swimming. Most importantly, however, my injury allowed me to appreciate the value of passion.
I believe that every person should have something that they pour their heart and soul into, something to get them out of bed in the morning. This can be a hobby, a sport, or a myriad of other things. For me, my alarm clock has been the mental image of me standing on top of the podium at the NCAA wrestling championships. However, along with the daily motivation that wrestling has provided me, wrestling has taught me many life lessons. My college coaches constantly remind me of one of the most important lessons: “control what you can control.”
While I am not allowed to step foot on a wrestling mat for the next four months, the motivation for being an NCAA champion is still a burning passion of mine. A passion that will be with me until the spring of 2017, when I graduate. However, there is relatively little I can do to work towards that goal for the next four months, outside of rehabbing like a madman.
While my alarm clock is in the shop I need a new passion to fulfill my life. I intend to explore the world that I have missed by going to bed so early all these years. Please join me as I explore our wonderful world over the next four months.
Jeffrey Ott wrestles at Harvard College where he started at 125lbs his fresman year and at 133lbs as a sophomore and studies psychology. In his first two season, he placed 5th and 6th respectively at the EIWAs. In high school, Jeff won a national prep title along with four New England prep titles. Outside of wrestling, Jeff enjoys bird watching, ukelele, and reading.
Originally published at wrestlingstories.org.