I grew up with a small basketball court in my backyard. I would wake up every morning and go outside and shoot hoops by myself. Like most young kids, I envisioned myself playing in college in the NCAA Finals and even playing in the NBA. When I got into 8th grade, that dream came crashing down. Apparently 5’8″ is to small to play basketball, especially when mixed with my over aggressiveness and constant fouling, I now understand why I got cut.
I grew up in a house with two coaches for parents, me not doing something active or productive was unacceptable. My parents always had a deal with me, as long as I was doing sports or training, I did not have to get a job while in school. They wanted to give me the best opportunity to be as successful in my athletics as I could be. So once I was cut from basketball, I immediately joined the wrestling team.
Let me tell you, I was awful. I only was able to wrestle in exhibition matches my first year; which meant I did not make the starting lineup. They would find someone for me before or after the match to pair me up with for an exhibition match. I never won a match that year. My freshman year was much of the same. I went 0-20 in the starting line up, however I did get my first exhibition win my freshman year.
I am not sure what made me stick with it, maybe it was the belief my parents had instilled in me my whole life, that you do not quit. So I didn’t. I trained harder. Every spring I went to open mats and in the summer I would do a few camps to learn as much as I could. After my freshman year, I lived with Ohio State All-American Nick Nutter for a month during the summer. He was a childhood friend of mine and someone I looked up to. My mom taught Nick in high school, where he was a state champ and two time Fargo Junior National Champ. So Nick offered to take me under his wing, coach me and train me for a summer. I went to four different camps that summer in Ohio and West Virginia. It was the first time I had someone believe in me, other than my parents, and what I could do in the sport of wrestling. That was the summer that changed me and my wrestling career forever.
My wrestling career started down a new path at the start of my sophomore year. I did not make the varsity team, but on junior varsity I went 20-1. After my sophomore year I transferred from Cloverleaf High School to Buckeye High School. Once I got to Buckeye I found out how a serious wrestling program trains and competes. My Junior year I went 30-14 and was a state-alternate, just missing the OHSAA state tournament. That spring I wrestled four to five days a week between open mats and open tournaments, and that summer I made two All-Ohio wrestling teams. One for the Disney Duals and second was a member of the Junior Freestyle and Greco-Roman team.
I came back my senior year on a mission. I finished 41-9 and was All-Ohio placing 5th in the state. All my hard work had finally paid off. I did not reach my ultimate goal of being a State Champ, but from where I started I accomplished so much in a short amount of time. I had no idea that the journey had just begun for me. After the State tournament I was asked to wrestle in the Greater Cleveland East-West All-Star match. I was losing the match 7-4 with 11 seconds left. I was able to hit a move and catch my opponent on his back, I pinned him with 1 second left to win the match. After that win, colleges started calling and offering me scholarships to continue my career.
I accepted a scholarship offer to Ashland University, a Division II school in Ohio. My freshman year I backed up a returning All-American Josh Hendricks. I would fill in when he was injured or needed a weekend off to rest. My sophomore year, I red shirted to hold my eligibility, as I had decided to transfer from Ashland. I transferred to Western State College of Colorado, another Division II program. In college I was a four time letter winner and a two time NCAA Division II National Qualifier. I never did reach my goal of becoming a collegiate All-American, but I know there a number of people out there that would trade careers with me in a heartbeat. From where I started in my wrestling career, I believe I came along way and was able to accomplish so much.
After college, I went onto coach high school wrestling for 11 years as an assistant and a head coach. I wanted to make a difference in young people’s lives, and believe in them when other people wouldn’t; because if that hadn’t happened for me, I have no idea where I would be today. For me there was no greater feeling than coaching these young men and teaching them the skills they needed to compete. When they would buy into the system and what you were teaching them, they would set goals for themselves, work for their goals, and accomplish their goals. There was no greater feeling for me as a coach and a mentor.
Wrestling is an amazing sport, that has so much to offer a young man or woman. In my life it has taught me passion, hard work, work ethic, and discipline; all of which are essential characteristics to be successful in life. I will never be able to pay back the sport of wrestling everything it has given to me and done for me in my life. So trying to make people knowledgeable on the sport as best I can, and get more people interested and educated in this dying sport is a start, and the least I can offer to the great sport of Wrestling.