Every Wrestler's Last Match
By James Emig
James Emig was a state tournament qualifier heavyweight in 1975 from
Cincinnati Greenhill High School. He has worked at 12 Ohio High School
Athletic Association State Championships. He has seven years of coaching
experience as a Junior and Senior High wrestling coach a Finneytown and
St. Xavier High Schools. He has served as tournament manager of the
Cincinnati division I sectional at St. Xavier high school.
This article appeared in the program for the 1993 Ohio State Wrestling
There comes a time when every wrestler realizes his competitive career is
over. Exactly when that moment occurs varies for every wrestler. For some,
that realization takes place in advance of their last match; those
wrestlers walk out onto the mat knowing it ends after that match. Others
get caught up in the race for the top and donít really want to think about
what may be their last match. It is difficult to put an end to something
to which you have given so much of yourself. However, sooner or later,
every wrestler grasps the reality that he has wrestled his last match, and
for many, it will happen this weekend.
Looking through the stands and in the corridors of the arena at the state
championships each year, you will see wrestlers whose careers are over.
Sometimes youíll see a mother, sister, wrestlerette or girlfriend crying
while holding him; a father looking out onto the arena floor, silently
thinking about what could have been. Behind every wrestler are many others
who quietly, deep within themselves, wrestle right along side him. They
feel the joy of victory and the pain of defeat as if it was their own.
When his career ends, much of the anguish they feel is because it is also
the end of something that has meant very much to them.
It is a long, difficult road from those very first matches, marked by many
defeats, to the state championships. Somewhere in between, childhood ends.
Games are no longer important and boys become men. Fortunate parents
witness this beautiful transition. It is not without a great deal of pain
and sacrifice for the wrestlers and families alike. For most wrestler,
qualifying for the Ohio State Championships represents the single greatest
achievement in their young lives. For all wrestlers, qualifying represents
an experience they will never forget.
No one knows what drives these young men and coaches to work so hard and
sacrifice so much. The rewards come from within. This sport of wrestling
brings winning and losing together such that the combination means
self-improvement. This is the real reward. One wrestler canít improve
without the efforts of another. The champions owe a debt to the wrestlers
they have wrestled and beaten. All wrestler who finish behind the
champions owe a debt to the champs because they have improved from the
experience. Collectively, we all owe a debt to this great sport because we
have all been touched by our involvement.
Six hundred and twenty-four wrestlers enter this tournament each year with
the dream of winning that final match. A dream, however, only thirty-nine
will realize. To those wrestlers who wrestle their last match this
weekend, congratulations to you, no matter where you place. The reality
is, there are no losers in the sport of wrestling; there are only those
who did not wrestle.