Ever since the age of 15, my goal was to become one of the best wrestlers in New York State, and eventually go on to the Division I level. Through sophomore to senior year, the dream was slowly nearing reality.
Going into my last high school year, I had already made the sectional finals the year prior, and had attained all-county status for the past two seasons. My final goal going into the final stage of my high school career was to place at the state tournament.
The first two tournaments went well, with a perfect 5-0 record in both of the competitions. With six pins and one tech-fall (beating your opponent by 15 points) I was very comfortable going into the mid-season county tournament.
I was seeded second behind a wrestler I had previously beat my sophomore year, so the pressure wasn’t as high as what I thought it would be. My whole team thought I had it in the bag up to the point.
My first two matches of the tournament were easy wins where I didn’t have to struggle in order to advance to the next round. When I made it to the semi-finals, I looked at the bracket to see who my next match would be.
I looked at the name but had never heard of this guy before. Because of that, I thought it was going to be an easy way to the finals to get the championship I’ve been working for. What I wasn’t expecting was a 20-year-old man who had five times the muscle of me and looked like he could bench 400 pounds.
As soon as I stepped on the mat, I watched this mountain of a man take off his shirt and prepare to face me. He looked as if he was prepared to go to prison in order to take me out. When we shook hands right before the match, I could feel how strong he was.
The matchup was close, and I gave up one takedown to him going into the third period. I was down by one point and I knew that I had to put in all of my effort if I was going to beat him. Looking at the clock and seeing 25 seconds remaining, my initial reaction was survival.
I took a desperate shot, but in my attempt, my head connected with his knee, cracking my head open immediately. I knew I only had a few seconds until there was so much blood that the referee would stop the match, so I rolled him over and was so close to getting the two points I needed to win.
Instead, I failed, and the referee stopped the match because of the blood and my injury. I had lost and the feeling of defeat came over me. I ended up finishing the tournament before rushing to the hospital, but not until I saw the finals match between the guy that beat me and the guy I had previously beaten.
I watched as my rival who had taken me out dominate and defeat the first seed. I couldn’t help but feel jealous like he had taken what was mine.
Fast forward a couple months, and I committed to Sacred Heart University, where I now wrestle at the Division I level. Wrestling is something I love to do and is something that I don’t think I can live without at the moment. I’m blessed to have the opportunity that I have, especially since I found out the guy who had beaten me had planned on wrestling at Bucknell University but instead had to pull out because of a serious brain injury.
After looking back at my situation and seeing that I could have won the tournament in high school, but would have to live with the fact that I would never be able to wrestle again, I can confidently say that some things really do turn out for the better, even if the path doesn’t look so bright in the beginning.