Throw-down in Snowtown!
If all you want out of life is to just be good at things, just remember that you’ll still look pretty bad next to someone who strives to be great. The story of my life, summarized in one short “Note-to-Self” kind of a statement. It was quite the depressing thought to be greeted with first thing in the cold winter morning. Here I am, halfway through my senior year of high school, and up until today, just about my greatest achievement was being good at a ridiculous variety of things. Although it would be considered an achievement for some people, being just ‘good’ wasn’t getting me anywhere.
Running through my usual morning routine, I made my way to school. However, this wasn’t going to be an ordinary day for me. Today I was going to be competing in the Denali Conference Wrestling Tournament, facing off with other wrestlers in my region’s weight class for a spot in the State Tournament. It was a bigger deal since its being hosted in my hometown of Cordova, which hasn’t seen a wrestling tournament, let alone the Conference Tournament, in over 10 years. I should be excited being able to finish my 5th and final year of wrestling in front of my home crowd. However, there were a lot of things that happened this season that put me at a disadvantage. For the whole season, I was unable to attend tournaments due to injury, financial problems and grades from the previous school year. This was going to be my first tournament of the season and I have no idea what I’m up against.
I arrive at school in time to see that a few teams had already settled themselves in our gym, Valdez being one of them. Cordova and Valdez have one of those high school rivalries that have been going on for decades before me. Sure, we’ll cheer for each other against the other competition but when it comes time for us to face each other, it can get pretty ugly. This is the reason why I usually look forward to going to the Throw-down in Snowtown Tournament, which is held every year in Valdez. It was Cordova’s only chance to look good in the rival school’s gym and I was very upset having missed it my senior year.
The school day just seemed to fly by, with anticipation building every hour leading up to the beginning of competition. A few close friends wished me luck while most other people didn’t even know I was on the wrestling team. After school let out, we wasted no time preparing for the competition. Mats were immediately laid out, competitors were weighed in and the competition brackets were set up. There were only 6 people wrestling in my weight class, which meant I would have to win against three people to advance to the State Tournament. A teammate of mine, who was also a senior competing in my weight class, informed me about the other wrestlers in our bracket. My first opponent was apparently a ‘fish’, which amounts to an easy win in wrestling terminology. For our entire season, the team motto has been “No Regrets”; when you go out to compete, wrestle your best and leave everything on the mat. Shortly before competition started I told myself, “If today is my last day as a wrestler for this school, I’m going to go out, put on a show for my home crowd and go down with a bang!” In that moment, I had no idea how far those words would take me that night.
When competition started, intensity filled the atmosphere quickly. I wrestled my first match against the ‘fish’ and although I made a few obvious mistakes, it didn’t take very much to win that match with a few people cheering me on. However, my next match wasn’t as much of a cakewalk.
Winning that match would’ve secured my spot at the State Tournament as well as at least a 2nd place. Unfortunately, the guy I wrestled was very skilled and defeated me with ease. I didn’t feel as bad for losing later when he won 1st place and went on to wrestle in the title match at the State Tournament. After a fairly long struggle, I managed to pull off a win in my third match and the crowd grew louder. Suddenly, I found myself in the consolation bracket wrestling for 3rd place and the last spot to the State Tournament. As if it wasn’t enough hype generated by being the hometown senior wrestling for his last trip to the State Tournament, I was pitted against a wrestler from our rival school Valdez. I saw this as an opportunity to make up for missing that tournament in Valdez; this is going to be my Throw-down in Snowtown and I’m going to do it in front of my home town.
Intensity filled the air even before the match had begun. From the blow of the whistle, we clashed in the center of the mat and even then, I knew that this was going to be a tough match. Using his forward momentum, I caught him in a head and arm throw. Suddenly, I had him on his back and was in position to end this match in the first round. However, he escaped my control and we were neck and neck for the rest of the match. There were about 50 seconds left in the match and with a one-point lead, I had to find a way to hold on. I tried to run out the clock but the referee awarded my opponent a point for my stalling, evening the score with about 10 seconds left. The crowd was on their feet for nearly the entire match and at this point, the noise was almost deafening. Before this, I’ve never really believed that I could make it this far and to be this close to victory, there was no way I could’ve ever settled for less. I had to find a way to make the seemingly impossible happen. With everyone in that gym rooting for me, I gave everything I had in those final moments to break out from my opponents control and score the winning point just before time expired.
The crowd roared, stomped and cheered as my arm was raised in victory. The emotions I felt in that moment was unlike any I’ve ever felt before. To see everyone cheer me on and to see that I can exceed my own expectations if I just believe in myself was just amazing. From that point, I went on with a newfound self-confidence that helped me accomplish a variety of achievements. These ranged from winning various competitions to contributing back into the community among other things. Looking back on it, I’m actually glad I didn’t end that match in the first round like I could’ve. If I did, I would’ve have seen how far I could push myself. As T.S. Eliot once said, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far once can go.”