He Stands Alone

   When a wrestler walks onto the mat, he stands alone. No one will run interference, no one will pass him the ball when they are under the net. No one will catch a deep fly ball if he threw that slow change-up high and outside. The wrestler stands alone.

   In other sports where individual scores are kept, the contest is determined in time, distance and height. In wrestling, the score is kept on a grappler's ability to overcome an opponent in a hand-to-hand contest where any second, at any time, can mean a loss or a win. If an opponent gains an advantage, there will be no help, no substitutes; there will not be a time out and all can be lost in a second. Yes, the wrestler stands alone.

   From the spectators standpoint, attention is focused on two competitors; not from 100 yards away, as in some sports, but, in most bouts, just a few feet away. Every move can be seen, every act detected. A failure in endurance, in technique or a lapse of concentration will be spotlighted. There is no place on a wrestling team for the lazy, the showoff, the half-hearted or the poor sportsman. When the whistle blows, wrestlers put their ability, determination and courage on the mat.

   We who are close to the young grapplers have watched the full range of emotions, from elation to heartbreak. We have seen coaches with tears running down their cheeks as they try to console a young competitor who has given his ultimate effort . . . yet lost.

   Wrestling is a tough, hard sport, and like life, it is survival of the fittest. The athletes that enter and stay with wrestling know this. The wrestler knows that when his match comes, he shakes his opponent's hand and the whistle blows . . .