Last week was an emotional roller coaster of ups and downs. I had one of the best surprises of my life while I was in Helsinki when my wife showed up in my hotel lobby. I had just finished working out, and when I got to the hotel, Coach Fraser told me that he had something for me. I had no idea what he had for me. I thought maybe some extra perdiem, or a new bus or competition schedule, but really I wasn’t expecting much of anything. I followed him around the corner, and to my surprise, I saw my beautiful wife sitting in a chair in the lobby. I was in a state of shock when I saw her, and I couldn’t comprehend what it was that she was doing in Helsinki, Finland thousands of miles from where I saw her last. A couple of questions came to mind with the two biggest ones being: Where are the kids, and how did you manage to have money to pay for the trip? It took me a good fifteen minutes of being together before I understood that yes my wife was there and that she was staying for the competition. I was so happy and excited that she was there for me, a time when I really needed her to be there.
We had a great time together over the next few days. We went to downtown Helsinksi, and I showed her what Europe was like. It was her very first time out of the country, and I was so happy to share a little bit of what my life has been like on trips over the last decade. We even had an opportunity to go to the temple in Helsinki, Finland. It was a very positive experience. Things were perfect, and I was hoping that it would set the tone for a great performance on the weekend, but it didn’t go as I had planned.
I made weight relatively easily, and I felt well rested and prepared for the competition. I felt like it was my time to shine. I drew Balacs Kiss from Hungary the first round of the tournament. He was a world champion in 2009, but I had beaten him the last time that I wrestled him. I knew that it would be a tough match, but I was confident that I could beat him again. As the match started, we were both wrestling at a very intense pace, pushing and pulling and grappling for position. We both knew that we were in a dog fight for with our Olympic dreams on the line. He caught me with a quick arm throw that I did not see or feel coming until it was too late. I was down and I knew that I had to score. We battled on our feet for the rest of the period, and I attacked with a high dive and got in deep to his waist. I scored one point from securing the take down, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the three points that he earned from the one arm throw.
The second period was just as intense as the first one was with both of us battling hard for the score. I executed an arm drag and drove him to the edge of the mat, inches away from a push out and a score, but he maneuvered out of the danger zone. The match went to parterre position on the mat. The whistle blew and I secured my lock. I went for my gut wrench. My lock was tight and I had a good drive. At one point I felt his hips slightly lift, and I thought that I would have the turn secured. However, it didn’t work. I tried and tried again but with no success. Time ran out and my opponent was awarded a point for his defensive display. In an instant the Olympic dream that I had vividly carried with me for years was snuffed out. The bright candle of hope that I had nurtured and cared for for years was put out so quickly. It was like all of the sudden I was in a dark room and I all I could feel was pain. The pain of loss. The pain of getting so close to something and not obtaining it. The pain of failure. How could I make sense of getting so close to the Olympics for the third time in my wrestling career and not making that breakthrough? It hurt. It still hurts. It will probably always hurt to some degree. All I can hope is that God has something big in store for me.
Since the tournament, I have been able to reflect on my life and my wrestling career. I spent the last decade of my life sacrificing for my Olympic dream, but I was also rewarded in a great way even though I didn’t reach all of my goals in wrestling. I was able to earn a world medal, win a team world championship, win numerous pan american championships, as well as gain a ton of international wrestling experience. I have made some amazing friends and seen things that many people will never see in a life time. I have been blessed with the kindness of others who helped me along the way ranging from coaches, teammates, family, sponsors, and some people who are just fans of the sport and wanted me to succeed. My life has been made much fuller by the people who I have met through the sport of wrestling and I have learned lessons from wrestling that will translate well into any other endeavor to which I commit myself to in the future. I have had the privilege of traveling the world and seeing how a variety of cultures live, by the which I have been able to develop a greater appreciation and love for the United States. I was able to represent my country and my family. I had fun.
All in all, even though I didn’t accomplish all of the goals that I had set for myself, there is one thing that I know, can appreciate, and be proud of: It was a good run.
I have either heard or read the term “western civilization” many times before, but I guess I never really thought about what that means. Things are different here: the incredible number of people on bikes, the different food, different medicine, different beliefs, different culture, and the list goes on. One thing that I have seen that amazes me is that the babies don’t wear diapers. There is a large hole in the babies’ clothes that allows them to use the bathroom whenever they are ready as opposed to soiling themselves in diapers. I have no idea how they potty train their children so quickly. The shear number of people here is staggering.
The other day I walked down an alley and I saw people selling food out of their small canopies set up by the side of the road. The street was dirty, smelled horribly, and was full of potential customers. I saw one man in particular that looked poorer than the rest and had a very small homemade grill. Behind him was a small room that I assume was where he lived. The way that he was interacting with the other people in the dwelling made it appear that they were his family. I looked at the small children, and I thought of my two young daughters back home. The thought crossed my mind that that man hustling to provide a little extra money on the side of the street loves his children just as much as I do and wants to succeed for his family.
Suddenly I felt a little guilty for not taking full advantage of the opportunities provided to me just because I was born in the united states. I have been able to attend college, travel the world, and spend the majority of my life doing what I love to do. However, there’s still plenty more that i can do. I’m sure that the man will probably never know what an inspiration he was to me that night, but I definitely want to make sure that I make the best use of all of the opportunities that I am afforded because of the country that I live in. I am truly blessed, and I’m very appreciative of the part of the western civilization that I live in.
Yesterday I pulled a hip flexor. It wasn’t a major injury, but it was enough to cause some discomfort. A lot of time with injuries it is easy to just take time off and let your body heal. However, your body will heal faster if you attack the problem. By getting rehab and working to get better faster, you win the battle. Don’t let small things become big because you’re waiting for it to fix itself.
Problems don’t fix themselves and usually early action can help with early resolution. Don’t let that nagging “thing” take you out of your game. Resolving the problem will probably be less painful than you had imagined, and you’ll be glad that you took care of it today.
Over the last week I have taken a couple of pretty good beat downs at the hand of a world champion. My first feeling was one of frustration, but then I started to think about what I could learn from my experience. I came to the conclusion that I should be grateful that I have someone to train with that can push me to my limits and make me better. Sure I could be in an environment where I win all the time, but where is the learning in that?
Next time you’re feeling beat down, look for the silver lining and see how the experience may really be a blessing in disguise.
Old Havana is changing. Old dilapidated buildings are getting some paint. Other public works projects are in the process of construction. There are more tourists here than I have ever seen. Cuba still has a long way to go to resemble anything of what it probably looked like 60 years ago, but things slowly are changing.
Things are still hard for people. Most of them make about 15 dollars a month. That’s right 15 dollars a month. Despite the challenges that they face they are amazing athletes, artists, and musicians. The people that succeed here aren’t the ones that have been blessed with a bounty of resources. The people that succeed here are the ones that try to do the best with the hand that they have been dealt. They can’t wait for someone to come save them because someone will never come.
In the United States right now, there are a lot of people that are waiting for someone to save them. A lot of people think that the United States government should do more to help the people. They want big government to save them instead of asking “What can I do to help save myself and my family?”
It is my humble opinion that the people that live in a free country, but think that socialism or communism would work better for everyone should take a trip to a country that has that form of government. I think that most people would quickly change their minds. If you live in the United States, be very grateful that you were born there. We have been extremely blessed to have the opportunity to live in the land of opportunity.
Estoy en Habana. I made it to Cuba safely and I am glad to be here. My heart always goes out to these people because they face some tough times, but despite the economic hardship they face, they are some of the nicest most hospitable people that you could meet. Whenever I come here, I think about the two years that I spent in Chile as a missionary and I remember walking a lot and interacting with some amazing people.
Today is a pretty light day for training and acclimation then tomorrow and Friday we will be practicing. Saturday I weigh in and compete the next day. There are some other teams here from Europe as well not to mention the always tough Cuban team. I am looking forward to the competition.
Our hotel is amazing and the food is great. The tourists do get pretty good treatment here. If I walk out on the balcony of my hotel room there is the ocean right outside. If it were a sandy beach below I don’t think that things could get much better other than if I was able to have my family here with me too. The beach is sharp rocks which to me serve as a little deterrent to get in the ocean as much as I would like to.
I will keep these posts short because of the cost of the wifi here. $50 for 8 hours and that was a deal compared to the regular $10 an hour. At least there is wifi, an I’m grateful for that.
Today starts my trip to Cuba. I am spending the night in Miami and tomorrow it is off to Havana for the Granma Cup. I think this will be my forth or fifth time to the island. This time I am going prepared with some baby clothes that some members of the church that I attend donated. The Cubans are awesome people but they face some extreme economic hardship. Whenever I think things are tight, I try to think about how blessed I really am.
The flight here was nice. In fact it was the first couple of flights that I have enjoyed in years. A couple years ago a brother in law passed away in a plane crash and since then I have had a horrible time flying. I would get gripped with an unexplainable fear that the worst would happen. Fortunately I met with someone who has helped me work through it. It is unbelievable how effective his therapy is. I will try to update regularly while I am on the road but it all comes down to how reliable the Internet connection is in Cuba.
“If you’re bored with life – you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things – you don’t have enough goals.” – Lou Holtz
One thing that I like to share with people, especially at wrestling clinics, is that goals are important. They give us direction, they give us clarity, and they also help to provide motivation to continue working even when things get difficult or don’t seem to be going your way. With a clear goal, you can look at it and be reminded of why you are working so hard, or why you should be working harder. However, I think one of the best parts of a good specific goal is that it gives you a deadline to get something done.
When we have a specific deadline, it is much more likely that we will get something done, and often times we will do whatever it takes to get it done on time. For some reason, we like to meet deadlines. Just think about when you were in school and you had a paper due. Sure sometimes you waited until the night before to finish it, but the thing is that the paper got done. It may not have always been the best paper, but it did get finished and turned in, which is better than having nothing at all. If your boss gives you a deadline to complete a project, you are going to do whatever it takes to get it done, because even if you don’t like your job, you do like the money that they give to you for going to work every day.
I am good at getting things done when people ask or tell me to get them done by a certain day, perhaps you are as well. The key is to get good at doing the things we tell ourselves to do by a certain time frame. If we can hold ourselves to our own deadlines, then we are definitely on the path to accomplishing our goals. What’s your goal? When will you accomplish it? Good luck on your path to success.
Doing extra work is just as much a psychological battle as it is a physical one. I know that after practice is finished, I’m tired, and neither my body nor my mind feel much like doing a few extra reps after practice to gain an advantage on my competition. However, I know that one of the best times to get your extra reps in are when you are tired and don’t want to do them. Over the years, I have come up with a small psychological trick that I use on myself to try to push myself just a little bit more.
At the end of practice, I tell myself that I only have to do one more rep. It might be strength training, it might be extra cardio, or it might be one extra repetition of executing a technique, but I tell myself that if I just do one, then I can be finished. This helps me to stay after practice, because surely I can do just one. However, almost always, the one will turn into multiple sets or repetitions, but sometimes that biggest battle is just doing the one. Do one rep after practice, make one last phone call, read one more chapter because over time, it all adds up.