“Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.”
- Dan Gable
Every wrestler has heard this quote at some point, but, more importantly, they know intimately the truth of its message. Few sports teach such valuable lessons as hard work, accountability, and humility, to name a few, as effectively as wrestling. Certainly not the mainstream sports like football or basketball. Wrestling is not only the ultimate test of physical strength and endurance (sorry football fans, not even in the same league), but it is equally, if not more, taxing on the athletes psyche and mental fortitude.
I am certainly biased, having wrestled the majority of my life and being a Division 1 wrestler. However, wrestling was not the only sport I played, far from it—I was a multi-sport athlete all my life, and still am presently for that matter. The reason I am so convinced that wrestling is a step above most other sports is because I have seen the difference firsthand.There is one preliminary factor that places wrestling above the mainstream sports: it is the ultimate individual sport. And, as anyone who plays an individual sport knows, competing one on one adds a deeper level of difficulty both mentally and physically. From a physical standpoint, there is no one to blame poor performance on and, no one to pick up the slack when you aren’t performing well. From a mental standpoint, a wrestling mat is like a broadway stage—everyone is watching and you are completely naked, with no one to protect you but yourself.
Other sports like tennis, golf, and swimming can appreciate the added difficulty that individual sports apply to an athlete. However, an added caveat that only wrestling provides (and I guess boxing as well), is that being physically dominated raises the level of anxiety exponentially. After being potentially manhandled you are infinitely more exposed than if you just lose a tennis match—there is something about being physically beaten that is a deeper, ad more severe shot at your pride. Anyway, the point of this tangent is, wrestling teaches kids lessons on a more mature level than other sports can and wrestlers become mentally stronger comparatively as a result.
Results have proven the value of wrestling as a tool to prepare young adults for life ahead. Business Insider posted an article two years ago taking notice of the growing number of former wrestlers dominating the finance industry: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-some-wall-streeters-got-their-competitive-edge-through-wrestling-2012-6. The article cites many Wall Street moguls, leaders of firms like Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs, that have attributed their professional success to their experience as wrestlers. The sport breeds responsible, hard working individuals who are prepared for the obstacles life throws at them—the importance of this cannot be overstated.
Another aspect of wrestling that I have found unique is how close its community is. In my personal experience, and I’m sure any wrestler will back this up, if you meet someone new and find out their a wrestler, instantly you have gained a permanent bond. Recently, wrestling was cut from the 2020 and 2024 olympics, and though it was a tragic blow for the sport it was a prime example of the type of community the wrestling world is. After being cut the wrestling community was justified in outrage (wrestling is one of the oldest sports known to man, and is a cornerstone of the Olympics), but, they immediately banded together to save the sport they love. What ended up happening was that wrestling was reinstated over baseball and squash after receiving the majority of votes (49) in a re-vote. IOC President Jacques Rogge said of the outcome, “Wrestling has shown some great passion and resilience in the past few months. They have taken a number of steps to modernize and improve their sport.” Wrestling was originally cut from the program because the IOC felt it was outdated and archaic. However, the reversal of the vote was a direct result of the wrestling community’s efforts to make adjustment to suit their sport to the IOC’s requests.
Wrestling is can have an incredibly positive influence on a young adult’s life, I know it has greatly affected mine. It is a shame because the sport, though it has endured ages with roots to ancient Greece, has become criminally neglected in modern culture. Mostly because of immature reasons like it is “too gay” or taboo. All I would say to parents looking to get their children into sports (that’s right, girls can wrestle as well), is that wrestling is certainly worth strong consideration. If you give it an honest chance I bet you will see how it can be such a powerful influence in someone’s life, as it has been on mine.