Things I learned on a wrestling mat

By Dwight Collins | Jan 28, 2016

Camden — This time of year — wrestling season — I am knee-deep in little mat rats trying to learn the sport of the gods and I'm reminded that life is much like a wrestling match.

We grapple with things every day: emotions, schedules, kids, family or friends. We help others make decisions or have to make them in their place; the struggle or “wrestling match” prepares them for the best possible outcome.

Wrestling has three periods, life has three periods. The first period is the time from the beginning of your life until you are considered middle-aged. Second period is middle age, and the third period is that final round to see what one is really made of.

The goal is to wear down your opponent and eventually pin their shoulders to the mat. Having a game plan going in is always a good idea, because much like wrestling, life is 90 percent mental. Preparing yourself for possible outcomes and situations, having the ability to overcome adversity with the power of staying positive and committed to being successful are all things that prepare the mind for battle.

Even when there is a David vs. Goliath matchup, the most important thing to do is keep moving. There is always a chance you can come out on top if you just keep moving. Lying there on the mat, or sitting on the couch eating Cheetos, will net you the same result — you will lose — getting pinned or dying at an early age because you didn't want to keep moving. The choice is yours.

As a coach I am always telling my wrestlers they have two ears and one mouth for a reason — to listen twice as much as they talk. I feel it is the same way in life. How can you possibly learn anything if you are talking all the time? Being able to control yourself during a practice or a match is no different from anywhere else. Behave, listen and act responsibly; it is really that simple.

Keeping your head up isn't just a phrase that someone will tell you when you're down in the dumps. In my world it means something different, but serves the same purpose. How can you see what is going on around you if you look at the ground? Wrestlers are taught to keep their heads up because it allows them to see their opponent and be aware of where they are on the mat. If you go into life without awareness of your surroundings, be prepared to be taken down. A hung head can be controlled easier than one held high. You control the head, the body follows.

With competition comes the thrill of victory, and more importantly the sting of defeat. We are going to lose some of life's battles; it is how we react in the face of that failure that tells us how far we have really come. I tend to remember the losses, because they fuel me to keep on keeping on. It's not about accepting failure, it is about being OK with having to try something multiple times to achieve success.

At the end of the day, it is nice to get your hand raised, however, the lessons learned prepare us to build a solid foundation based on hard work and dedication to becoming the best we can possibly be. Mental toughness, preparation, constant forward movement and the ability to keep your head up are a winning combination on and off the mat.

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