Work with what you’ve got


“Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.” — William Faulkner, writer, 1897-1962.

We’ve all been given our fair share of things, some we like, some we don’t like so well. It’s all about who we are and what we do with what we’ve been given.

Growing up, the Wylie boys were the biggest, tallest and heaviest in their class. Over the years, Allison, their mother would say to me, “Thank God they’re boys and not girls.”

I’d respond, “Yes, it’d be a sad day if they were girls.” Then we would both laugh.

“Your boys could be couch potatoes or sports players. It is what’s in them that will determine how they handle their bigness.”

I’d tell her, “Their size came from their genes, they can’t help it. My dad was a big guy, very strong, but light as a feather on the dance floor. When he was a young man, he sat on the tailgate of the old farm truck and lifted bales of hay all day long with one arm and threw them into the truck bed. Even today, people talked about how strong he was back then.”

The boys would wrestle each other, jump off the back of the couch on to the other one. They played hockey and were tough in their elementary years. When they moved to Pagosa in the fourth and fifth grades, they were linemen on the football team. The first thing the coach did was put a yellow dot on their helmets. This meant they couldn’t touch the ball.

They were the big kids, who had to defend the small ones. I heard a mother once say to her 75-pound son as he walked out onto the football field, “Stay behind Slade. He’ll protect you.” The team needs those heavy boys.

College football coaches are all hoping Creede will be bigger and heavier by next year. He’s just the right size for wrestling heavy weights today. He’s clocking in at 257 pounds, with a 24-inch-shoulder span. He’s working out day and night getting ready for state wrestling in Denver.

One of the college wrestling coaches marveled at Creede. He said, “I’ve never seen a heavyweight do backflips and cartwheels, but it’s easy for you.”

I told Creede, “You’ve been given an awesome gift — you. You have the mind to out think your opponent. You calculate his moves, and you know when he doesn’t have anything left. You are quick and agile. You’ve been given the strength and size of a very strong man. You have the endurance to go the full match and still have plenty left over. Most important, you’ve been given the want-to for discipline, exercise, determination and you have the drive of a champion.

“Some talented athletes lack the drive, discipline or the vision. They can go so far, but no further. Everything is working for you at the moment. The most important thing is how you handle this awesome opportunity and responsibility, which has been given to you.

“You need to keep yourself humble, and know it is only God who has placed this in you. Don’t abuse this blessing you’ve been given. Give God the glory. This gift is not only for you, it’s for others who need to watch and live their dreams through a champion.

“One day you’ll be asked to give back to those coming up after you, like the people who have come alongside to make you better for a greater purpose.

“Your parents have supported you from the beginning. Mr. Dan Janowsky, Coach J, has run a clean wrestling program and given you an opportunity to go all the way.

“Michael Martinez, a graduate of 2004 from Pagosa, came back this season to work with the wrestlers. He’s been there for you and given you higher aspirations, such as being a contender for nationals and the Olympics. He believes in you and believes you can do it. He’s helped you change your mindset from a heavyweight to a lightweight. This is an enormous advantage. You can out think your opponent both ways. Most heavyweights can’t do that.

“With no one your size in the program, Myron Stretton and Bubba Martinez, two Pagosa graduates back in the day, have come alongside to challenge you and have given their time to work with you. They have given you different types of scenarios, which you might have to face. Joe DuCharme, from Pagosa High School is another legend to chase.

“Then there is one of your best friends, Mike Kelly, your former football coach who has been with you all the way through the sports program. He has promised he would be there for your first game in college. He means it, and he’ll be there.

“Many of the fans have taken time out of their busy schedule to be at your matches, watching and supporting you. They are praying for you, also. You are a blessed young man.”

Vince Lombardi said, “There is something in good men that longs for discipline and the harsh reality of hand-to-hand combat.”

“Why wrestle?”

This unknown author says it best: “Wrestling prepares a person to fight the game of life. The wrestler is the one athlete that must meet his opponent and do battle completely on his own; no one can substitute, no time outs are possible. He has no one to check, screen, block or assist him in any way. There is no one to blame for his mistakes. When he wins, he must show quiet pride and modesty. When he loses, the responsibility is his. Wrestling is a true sport. In other sports, when contact is made, they blow the whistle to stop the action. In wrestling, when contact is made, we’re just getting started. No other sport requires more sacrifice than wrestling. An individual, through self-denial, offers more of his character than can ever be explained. Through every trial, test and tribulation.”

Final brushstroke: For me, I am coaching you from the stands. I tell you to turn them over, and pull them back into the circle. I’ve recorded the action in the circle but your ring is just too small. I’ve seen 500 pounds fly out of the circle when you’ve jumped on your opponent. I have a video with no movement and your toes are just inside the ring. I missed videoing an important pin, but all to say, I’m your biggest fan.

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This story was posted on January 23, 2014.