Oakland Tech coach Ashlee Sherman consoles his wrestler, Royal Lawrence, at the state tournament (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)
When my mind is filled with doubt that things will not work out, I put my head down and charge ahead. I learned from many years on a wrestling mat, that is all you can do. There will always be someone better or someone who works harder. That is life. A person with a unique talent that whatever you do, he wins. He figures out a way to defend your single leg despite your best efforts to score.
The wrestler's credo is that whatever happens, you get up and keep going. Like a wrestling match, life will hit funk rolls, and many times you won't be able to score. Other times, you are paralyzed by fear and indecision and struggle to understand the reason. During those times, it is a constant reminder to get up and keep going.
I can't say and will never know if I would have learned this mentality of perseverance, and constant forward movement if I never stepped on a wrestling mat. It has been wrestling's greatest gift to me. A gift wrapped in blood, sweat, tears, and struggle. Inside the wrapping paper is mental fortitude -- the wrestler's credo.
The credo is committed and obligated to bring honor to the sport by never quitting and refusing to stay down. It is a sacred trust that is agreed upon in every wrestling room. When all is lost, a voice in our head tells you, "It's OK. You can get up, keep working, keep giving your best, don't give in to the pain."
Every person will fail more than they succeed. They will take beatings. Some will be pretty bad, leaving you with black eyes and bruising. It is the severe blows that test our resolve. It will test our willingness to fight. The other voice in your head says, "Stay down, find something easier, no one will even notice if you quit." It is comforting and offers reassurance. It is the voice that gives up an easy go-behind instead of fighting for a stalemate. It is the voice that every wrestler tries to silence to a whisper.
Wrestling is a game about life -- attacks and counter-attacks. Working hard, learning, and growing, and failing. Two points life! You escape and look to score. Life is aggressive and hand-fighting hard. Your neck is getting tired. Life attacks with a hard double leg, two more points life! Life is riding tough. You struggle to stay on your base. The pressure is unrelenting. Knee slide, movement, and finally, you get hand control. You escape. One point to the wrestler. You are back in the match. You fake to one leg and attack the other. Two points to the wrestler! There is a lot of time to go. You keep telling yourself to keep moving and working.
The match could be your work, a relationship, or a financial challenge. Life will keep the pressure on you. You will struggle to get to your base on the bottom. It will hang on your head with a collar tie and wear you down. But the wrestler keeps fighting. He applies his own pressure. It is in his mentality. It's his credo.
John Klessinger has been a high school teacher and wrestling coach for the past 21 years. As a head coach, his teams have won close to 400 matches, and they have won multiple county, region, and tournament championships. Six times he has been named the Baltimore Sun and the Annapolis Capital Gazette Anne Arundel County Coach of the Year. As a competitor, John was twice a Pennsylvania All-State wrestler. He was a four-year starter at the Division I collegiate level and a Division I East Regional champion. John competed in the 1997 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.
John wrote an ebook called "Strong Mind Strong Body" that can be found on Amazon.