High School Wrestling: Dedication and Sacrifice

High School Wrestling: Dedication and Sacrifice

Definition of Dedication and Sacrifice

According to Dictionary.com, dedicated can be defined as “wholly committed to something, as to an ideal, political cause, or personal goal.” Synonyms for dedication are commitment, loyalty, devotion, allegiance.

Being dedicated involves being wholly committed to something. In other words, it means being devoted to a particular thought, ideal, purpose, or goal. For example, one may be devoted to the ideal of a democratic society. Or, one may be dedicated to philanthropy and fund-raising.

Sacrifice often goes hand in hand with dedication.

The Free Dictionary defines sacrifice as “forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of one considered to have a greater value.”

“The amount that you’re willing to sacrifice is directly proportional to your desire for success.” – Dan Gable

During my junior year of high school, I was voted Most Dedicated Wrestler by my teammates. That wrestling season was actually a rather heartbreaking one for me. I had the ability to win the conference title but finished as the runner-up. I won sectionals and was favored to win districts but lost my first round match after leading 3-0 going into the last period. I won the next match in overtime. I had a chance in a wrestle-back match to still qualify for state. But, I lost. In fact, I lost to the wrestler I had beaten in the sectional finals a week earlier. I was sad, angry, and humiliated.

So, why did my teammates vote for me as the most dedicated? I guess I don’t know for sure. I always controlled my weight well and my coach never had to worry about me making weight. I never missed a practice as far as I recall. I gave up the luxury of eating whatever I wanted. I sacrificed time that could have been spent with friends and girlfriends. I guess they recognized the commitment I gave to wrestling.

Successful athletes and other people from many walks of life have devoted themselves to something they deemed important. Athletes, actors, singers, artists, and writers often had to be dedicated to their craft and make sacrifices before reaching the pinnacle of success.

Wrestling Dedication and Sacrifice

Even six-time World and Olympic Champion John Smith suffered rare losses occasionally. He lost in the NCAA finals in his sophomore year at Oklahoma State. The loss, of course, angered Smith.

According to T. P. Grant in an article entitled Gods of War: John Smith, “Determined to become the best, Smith dedicated himself totally to the sport and pushed away anything that wasn’t directly involved with success on the mats. Friends, relationships, and vacations were all pushed to the side as Smith looked to achieve a single goal: never lose again.”

In a 1992 interview with the Los Angeles Times Smith spoke of commitment saying, “I make a commitment that no other wrestler does. There are probably a few wrestlers out there who think they make a commitment. But I really make a commitment.”

Smith goes on to say, “Anything that gets in my way, I pretty much eliminate. I don’t have too many close friends. I don’t have too many close relationships. I just can’t afford to have them to go where I want to go, to do what I want to do. I really focus on myself. I really figure out and find a way how I can win, how I can beat everybody. I’ll do whatever it takes.”

I’m sure you know Dan Gable was an incredibly successful American wrestler and coach. His dedication to the sport is well known and much has been written about him.

Gable states, “The obvious goals were there – state Champion, NCAA Champion, Olympic Champion. To get there I had to set an everyday goal which was to push myself to exhaustion or, in other words, to work so hard in practice that someone would have to carry me off the mat.”

In an ESPN SportsCentury documentary Gable states, “Finally, in my senior year in college I actually took a gal out and I looked at my clock when I got home. It was like 3:00 a.m. and I had a running practice lined up at 7:00 and I didn’t feel good at that running practice. I was tired all day. That just solidified in my mind that wasn’t going to work and something had to give.”

After an amazing high school and college career, Gable won a gold medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich Germany without surrendering a single point.

Mark Ironside is another wrestler you may have heard of. He was a two-time state champion and a two-time NCAA champion. But, Ironside didn’t become a champion without dedication and sacrifices.

According to the article Mark Ironside – Once in a Lifetime, “For Mark, lonely hours of painful and inconvenient sacrifice would soon yield to glory. For him, the focal point of each day was not eating junk food, playing video games, or hanging out aimlessly with friends. It was the 3:00 pm two-hour practice session most high school grapplers dread. Mark intensely focused on every minute of the warm-up, drilling, and hard-goes. He reveled in the physical and mental challenge, and upon completion would invariably stay on continuing his drilling after the rest were showered or even home.”

When it appeared that wrestling was going to be cut from the Olympics, comedian and actor Jay Mohr shared quite a few thoughts. Here’s part of what he had to say, “You try to get your fifteen-year-old son to clean his room. You try to do that. Now I want you to get that same kid and tell him he can only eat chicken breasts and spinach, and every once in a while gorge himself on some fruit, and get up when it’s dark out and run five miles before school, and then when he’s at school, he’s going to stay at school and go to a wrestling room and grind it out. It’s an amazing sport. It’s the purest sport. It’s the solo, solo sport. It’s a monastic life, the life of a wrestler.

Other Examples of Dedication and Sacrifice

Wrestlers, of course, aren’t the only individuals who are familiar with dedication and sacrifices.

Mary Lou Retton was the first American woman to win a gold medal in gymnastics and she did so in 1984. In an interview Mary Lou was asked about her training schedule during that time and she replied, “Well, it was quite difficult. Two years prior to the Olympics, our daily schedule was 7:00 to 11:00 in the gym every morning. We would shower at the gym, go to school for a few hours and then back to the gym from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. every single day. So it was eight hours every day. It was a job.”

“You give up your childhood. You miss proms and games and high-school events, and people say it’s awful… I say it was a good trade. You miss something but I think I gained more than I lost.” – Mary Lou Retton

Most of you have heard of Arnold Schwarzenegger the seven-time Mr. Olympia bodybuilding champion and movie star. You may not know that Arnold served for a period of time in the Austrian Army for mandatory service. Because of his devotion to bodybuilding, Arnold served seven days in military jail in 1965 for going AWOL from the Austrian Army to enter and win a bodybuilding event called the Junior Mr. Europe contest.

Later on Arnold would come to America to pursue his dreams. For a period of time he was roommates with another bodybuilder and friend Franco Columbu. According to Franco, their grocery bills were huge. Columbu recalls, “Joe Weider paid us $80 a week each. We’d go to the market, and three days later all the money was gone. We’d work construction to make extra money.”

“Bodybuilding is much like any other sport. To be successful, you must dedicate yourself 100% to your training, diet and mental approach.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

Robbie Lawler was involved in mixed martial arts and the UFC before it became well known. He was dedicated to the sport nonetheless.

“I started real young, that obviously helps. I’ve always had a belief in myself and an ability to always do what I believe,” Lawler told FOX Sports. “Just being able to grind, day in and day out. You have to be a different kind of person to not just do the workouts, but to not make money for months at a time. Live on someone’s couch if you need to before the sport was this big. You have a different mindset.”

If you want to learn about dedication and sacrifice perhaps you should read about the soldiers who spent the winter at Valley Forge during the American Revolution.

Writes Daniel P. Murphy, “Washington’s army suffered through the winter of 1777-78, but they endured.”

He states, “The army had to find some sort of shelter. Washington made the construction of log huts the first priority. The last of these were not finished until after Christmas. Drafty, smoky, and often floorless, they offered poor shelter from the elements. Many men could not leave their huts because they had no clothes. A shortage of food and water added to the misery. The staple of their meager diet was fire-cake, made from a flour and water paste cooked on hot stones.”

We all know that soldiers have made many sacrifices for their countries.

The Bottom Line

So, am I saying you should give up friends, family, and other interests? Am I saying you should expect to endure great hardships if you want to become the best? Not necessarily. But, if you really want to be the best wrestler you can be then you need to think about your priorities and what you really want.

John Smith and Dan Gable both eventually married and had kids. They simply waited until they could make it a priority in their lives. And, many people with close relationships including girlfriends and marriages have still become champions. It’s about balance and priorities. So, I’m not saying you have to sacrifice everything for wrestling.

For some, wrestling is merely an enjoyable and challenging extracurricular activity and that’s fine. For some it’s much more. As I write this article, summer is fast approaching. What will your summer involve? Will you forget about wrestling altogether over the summer? It’s up you. How dedicated to wrestling are you? What are you willing to sacrifice?