By Ozzy Sandoval
This I Believe
I was sitting at a packed Assembly Hall, home of the Fighting Illini, watching the Illinois state wrestling finals, looking down at some of the toughest kids in the state wrestling under huge amounts a pressure and I thought to myself, why would someone sacrifice so much jus to win that gold medal? I found the answer shortly after when one of the best wrestlers in the state came up to wrestle. As his name was announced, the crowd went crazy, everyone seemed to know who he was, three-time state champion Mikey Benefiel, and he was going for his fourth. I watched as he wrestled a close match against a tough opponent, he was winning most of the match and the time was running out. There was about 20 seconds left but instead of trying to get those last second points to take the lead and win, his opponent stopped wrestling and raised Benefiel’s arm in the air. The gym went wild; I had never seen so much intensity. You could see the pride he had as he ran to his coach and leaped onto him with tears in his eyes; everyone in that gym respected him. That’s when I realized that’s where I want to be, looking up at the crowd screaming your name, not looking down from the stands helplessly watching it all happen. And I know it’ll take hard work.
I believe once you’ve wrestled, almost everything else is easy. I’ve played many sports, and I think wrestling is by far the hardest. That first match I wrestled was probably 6 of the hardest minutes of my life. Fighting through black eyes, bloody noses, cuts, and bruises everyday, staying after to lose those extra 2 lbs so you can make weight, practicing for at least 2 hours everyday; even on weekends, and running those 50 sprints after practice; trying hard not to throw up, all just to be standing in the middle of Assembly Hall getting your hand raised. I want to see what that feels like someday, but even if I don’t, it’s all good, because I’ve wrestled, a sport in which most people wouldn’t survive a week in, a sport that makes everything else seem so easy.
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