... ON WRESTLING WITH COURAGE
A long, long time ago, on a wrestling mat far, far away, I faced COURAGE, a very formidable adversary. It was the winter of 1963 in Pennsylvania. The Shamokin HS "Greyhounds" were about to wrestle the Southern Area HS "Tigers" in their yearly central Pennsylvania dual meet. Competing for Shamokin at the time, I (along with my teammates) considered the match to be a "breather" in our otherwise grueling schedule.
Picked to win the contest by an overwhelming margin, our coach and his devoted assistant did everything in their power to temper the overconfidence they sensed in us. We didn't listen and I, in particular, was taught a lesson that would forever be remembered.
Yours truly was pitted against Tim Steele, a childhood acquaintance who I knew from church. Tim was a nice kid, too nice (I thought) to even consider going out for wrestling. During our coach's pep talk prior to the evening's match, I was instructed to pin Timmy Steele in an expedient manner. Being the defending district champion at that weight class, I fully expected to record the quickest fall of my career.
When Tim and I shook hands at the start of our bout, I was briefly amused by a gleam in his eyes which I mistook as a show of naive bravado. At that moment, however, my primary concern was to end the match as swiftly and painlessly as possible.
Ten seconds into the first period, I pancaked Tim, pounding his back to the mat. (It was going to be easier than I previously anticipated.) But then, like a flash of lightning, he sprang into a high bridge that almost catapulted me from his body. Tim maintained a steep arch for the remainder of the period, thwarting all my attempts to secure a fall. I was impressed by his tenacity.
Starting the second stanza in the down position, I immediately gained a reversal. Less than twenty ticks later, I placed Tim Steele on his back with a "guillotine." Like the maneuver suggests, Tim was in agony when I stretched his neck to its legal limit. Still, he fought doggedly to keep his near shoulder off the mat until the period ended.
I was in awe by Tim's incredible defiance of the inevitable. At this point in the match, I was becoming desperate, knowing it was my charge to flatten Tim Steele.
Can you believe it? Even though I was "clobbering" my antagonist, I was the one who began to panic!
On top the third period, I endeavored to crush Tim Steele for putting me through this public embarrassment which I was thus far experiencing. So as soon as the whistle blew, I immediately employed a "chicken-wing." (Today, this arm-wrenching hold is outlawed in the mat sport.) With the pressure I applied on Tim's shoulder, I knew he had to be in excruciating pain. Then I shot a devastating half nelson that drove him to his back. For almost two minutes, Timmy Steele literally cried in anguish. Nonetheless, he never submitted. Then I heard the final buzzer amidst the ear-shattering cheers of those in attendance. At that very instant, I was visibly stunned by the realization that I had fallen short in accomplishing my goal.
When the referee raised my hand, there was a thunderous round of applause from both sides of the gym. Of course, I understood (as did my coaches and team) that the accolades were not for me, but for my valiant opponent.
Although he scored not one point, and was on his back for well over five minutes, Tim Steele was truly the winner of our match.
Southern Area went on to tie Shamokin that night (20-20). It was, without question, a moral victory for the "Tigers." And Timothy Steele was the inspiration behind that surprising outcome. As members of both squads shook hands at the conclusion of the meet, Tim and I faced each other once again. My eyes watered with sincere admiration when we embraced.
Yes, it was a long, long time ago, on a wrestling mat far, far away, that I had the privilege to encounter the uncompromising spirit of a brave heart!
WRESTLING WORDS OF WISDOM
"Courage is the resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not the absence of fear."
- Mark Twain