I hope this month finds everyone well after the best wrestling month of the year. It was exciting watching the college national tournaments. The sport is at a high level and the brand of wrestling is exciting to watch. If you were able to attend any of the tournaments live, congrats. I was fortunate enough to watch Grandview University win its 6th straight NAIA championship in dominant fashion. It really was more than dominant, as they set the points record for the second straight year. Coach Mitchell and the gang have it rolling. My alma mater Wartburg College has it rolling also. Congrats to Coach Keller and Wartburg community on their 13th national championship, a record for NCAA division 3 wrestling. Wrestling is good in the state of Iowa. The Division 1 tournament was unbelievable to watch also. Thankfully I was able to watch on ESPN. I think my wife and kids think I am crazy because during Cory Clark, Max Thomsen, Sam Brooks, and Thomas Gilman matches, I may have been jumping around the living room and screaming at the TV. I just love the sport of wrestling.
For this month's article, I want to focus on a book that was given to me by my friend, Coach Bill Bertran, from Webster City. Michael Fessler is the author and he talks about the role of the wrestler and how it mirrors the Christian Life. Wrestling is the oldest and greatest sport and Fessler spends time talking about how Jacob wrestles the Lord because he had sinned against his father. The first match lasted all night until day break. In the beginning of the match God touches Jacob's hip and wrenches it. He continued to wrestle all night with the wrenched hip. He was in pain, but kept going. How true is that for a wrestler's body? The battle is within you, just as much as it is against the opponent. In parallel to this story, I watched Cory Clark battle his shoulder injury this year. He went through a struggle to recreate his wrestling style and ability, and dig down to win the national title. A wrestler may be in pain, but you have to fight through it.
There are ups and downs with the sport of wrestling. I heard a quote from my friend Heath Grimm, Upper Iowa University Coach, who had two All Americans this year. He said, "There are weddings and funerals in wrestling." There are life lessons that can't be learned in any other sport like wrestling. Fessler's book does a fantastic job of relating to the Christian life. One person he talks about is Jack Spates, ex Oklahoma coach. Coach Spates was drawn away from the Lord during his coaching tenure at Oklahoma, but was brought back to the Lord towards the end of his career. The lesson is that someone always loves you and has grace for you. Make that be the constant in your life, and when the ups come give glory to the Lord and when the lows come give glory to the lord. As Fessler and Coach Spates state, life can be balanced a lot easier by not making bad decisions in your life.
In wrestling, you need to let others help you, be humble, and keep your heart open. It can be tough for a wrestler to do. It's the dichotomy of sport to be able to humble yourself when in the spotlight, especially the higher the level you climb. We are blessed in our sport because some of our greats are very humble. I remember sitting with Coach John Smith in Moscow, Russia. I was a bit nervous, as a group of people sat around the dinner table. It was surreal for me that I was eating with John Smith. What I learned is he is one of the most humble guys. He talked a lot about his faith and was not afraid to talk about it. He probably does not remember the conversation, but that made my faith stronger knowing arguably the best USA wrestler ever can openly talk about his faith. He is a humble leader in my book. He was blessed with incredible talent and a work ethic matched by few. Brandon Slay, an Olympic Gold Medalist, is another example of a wrestler and his walk towards the Christian faith. He says his wrestling career changed when he started building his faith. He was not following Christ in his college days and not making the right lifestyle decisions. When he changed his lifestyle after college, his international career changed for the better. He went on to win an Olympic gold medal. There are so many others in the international scene that I have been blessed to hang out with on travels around the world with the World and Olympic teams. Jordan Burroughs, Tervel Dlagnev, and JD Bergman are guys that are very outspoken about their faith and what it has done for their life and success. They are great role models for the young men and women in our sport.
This was not an article necessarily on health, but I think health starts with our spirit and the thoughts we think about every day. Our bodies are designed by our creator and they are designed to be healthy and function at high levels. The first step is always the spirit inside your body. Thank you to Bill Bertran and the gift of the book!
Kevin Miller D.C.