Every once in a while I get lucky. The 1990-91 wrestling season was one of those times. A young wrestler decided to do something special with his senior season and become the first wrestler from North Monterey County High school to win a medal at the California State wrestling tournament. The moment I remember vividly is not the state tournament where that dream became reality. It was during the finals of a tournament against an opponent from Oregon. Both wrestlers had been equal to the task and the match had been epic with the Oregon wrestler coming back from an 8-2 deficit to take a lead with twenty seconds to go. Both wrestlers were in the prime of their youth and in peak condition. Both were drenched in sweat and exhausted. I remember looking at my wrestler’s eyes as he tried desperately to grasp his opponent for a throw and yelling encouragement to him that he had to “go now” as the clock read 8 seconds. And then it happened. For a split second it was like I could see into the depths of his soul right through his eyes. His efforts were so prodigious in the match he could not even think about concealing his emotions. They were plain to see in his face as he reached into a place unknown and found the strength to throw his opponent to his back and win the match with seconds left. The gym erupted in wild applause as they recognized the greatness they had just witnessed.
As the two opponents shook hands there was respect in both their eyes but there was something else in my wrestlers face. He was changing into a man right before my eyes. I got lucky because I got to see it. For many kids they are in school because they have a dream or an engaging reason to be there. For my wrestler it was wrestling. For others it may be drama, choir, band or being part of a club. I believe that we can build our schools so that they are places of inclusion that strive to engage students in every way. Assessing a person is at best difficult for who can measure the character of a person or gauge the depth of a heart? This I believe.
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