In 1961, my uncle and godfather, Frank Oliveri, claimed the Mid-America wrestling conference title, and again in 1962. Between 1966 and 1969 my other uncle, Carmen Oliveri, won the Section V wrestling title twice; and in 1969 became a High school all-American. In 1980 my father, Anthony Oliveri was the Regional Olympic Qualifier champ, and became a college all-American. In 2004, Ben Oliveri, (that’s me), the last of what I like to call, the Oliveri wrestling Dynasty, stepped on the mat for his first varsity-wrestling match in a duel meet against Hilton.
Very shortly after, I stepped off the mat, because I had been pinned. As a 92-pound freshman, I was placed on a varsity spot at the 103-pound weight class. With hardly one year of experience under my belt, this was the equivalent of throwing a small child to fend for himself among a famished pack of wolves. I lost nearly all of my matches that year, only squeaking by with a win five times. This was disappointing and frustrating not only for me, but for my family as well, who have a strong embedded passion for wrestling. However, my lack of success sparked up my inner determination. During the season I was working out an extra hour or more after practice with one of my uncles, who insisted hours of repetition was the only way to improve. I recall one of my Uncle Frank’s favorite sayings, “Ben, why would anyone choose mediocrity when greatness is an option?” he would often say to motivate me. I continued wrestling all eight months of the off-season.
As a sophomore, I went into the season thinking that with all my hard work, I was sure to destroy all of my opponents. Not the case. I ended up with a five hundred record that season, and although a grand improvement from the previous year, I was still gravely disappointed throughout the season with my performance. I continued putting in the extra hours, driven by my disappointments.
Now in the middle of my third season of high school wrestling, I still suffer disappointments, though far less frequent. I can’t help but notice, on weeks when I am successful in competition, I tend to take it easy the following week at practice; and contrary, when I do not perform as well as I would have liked, I work harder than ever at practice, knowing I need improvement.
The pressure of being the last of the second generation of wrestlers in the Oliveri wrestling Dynasty definitely has its cons: the pressure to succeed, the pressure to practice endless hours, etcetera. However it has its pros too, with out my family history of wrestling, I would have absolutely not improved in the sport as much as I have. The other driving force behind my improvements is disappointment. Yes, I believe in disappointment. After a lot of thought about my failures and shortcomings, I have concluded that disappointment is in fact a positive thing, which all people should have to some extent in their lives. I have had many disappointments throughout my high school wrestling career thus far, and without fail, the disappointments have inspired me far more than the triumphs.
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