College is supposed to be the best four years of a person’s life, or if you are like me, you get more than four years. Being on the wrestling team has helped me encounter many good times, but at the same time, it has brought some very tough ones. Coming in to Wabash, I was excited to finally step back on the mat after not being on it for nearly three years, but being injured seemed to the story of my season this year. After a knee surgery, bad ankle sprain, concussion, and elbow surgery, I was forced to wait a couple more months before I can start to chase down my goal of running out on the red carpet, and winning a national title.
Even though I am left to help with random duties the coaches give to me, I couldn’t be any happier with this season. No matter what the situation is, there is always good to be found. When I was told my season was done, it stung; really left a bad taste in my mouth. I was down a little bit, but then I realized that I was going to be put into a different role than just being a wrestler. Since being hurt, I have been able to help coach a little more, which I love doing, and I even had the chance to do the broadcasting during the Manchester dual.
The season definitely has not gone to “plan”, but I’m not complaining. Sitting in my chair next to the clock at practice and being able to watch my brothers just battle with each other gets me that much more excited for next season. The team has made amazing strides as a program and we are only going up from here. I wish I would have been able to contribute more to the success the team has had, but because each and every single person who steps foot on that mat is ready for battle every day, Wabash wrestling will be up there on other people’s lists of teams to watch for, that is if we aren’t on there already. With this season being more of self-reflection season for myself, I can say that it has been a great one for the rest of the team, and Wabash College will have numerous guys standing on the podium at the end of the year in the years to come.
Path of the Gods
Before I decided to study in Rome for a semester, I had determine whether or not missing a semester of wrestling was a sacrifice worth making for the experience that I would have while abroad. The fact that I am writing this blog implies that I obviously thought it was a worthy sacrifice at the time. Furthermore, I am at Wabash to grow personally, academically, and athletically, so off-campus study in Rome was the perfect way to distribute my focus to the personal growth portion of my Wabash education. Regardless of the fact that I was going to miss half of the season, I knew that I still had to train to make my transition into competition easier upon my return. Therefore, I approached this past summer exactly the same way that I would for any season. I made sure that trained both on and off the mat and saw great results. Leading up to my departure, I expected this level of training to continue while I was in Europe; however, I was in for a big surprise.
Within a week of arriving in Rome I found a gym and purchased a membership for the duration of my stay. You would think that gyms would be the same everywhere, but they are much different in Italy. Gyms in Italy did not have the equipment or the luxury of space that I was accustomed to in the U.S. In addition, most Italians view exercise as a means to look “beautiful” not as a means to excel athletically. Through this difference in mentality I acquired many perplexing looks from the Italians who saw me train. They often asked me questions about the purpose of what I was doing or what muscles a specific exercise was training. In addition to my weight training, I also did quite a bit of running while in Italy. For those of you who are not familiar with the topography of Rome, it is a city of many hills (seven of significant importance to be exact). It just so happened that I lived on top of the tallest hill; therefore, my running workouts often consisted of hill and stair sprints. The final portion of my training, albeit completely unrelated to wrestling, was joining the soccer team of my program. Playing soccer was not so much a way to train physically as it was a way to keep a competitive mindset while abroad.
Experiencing the Culture
Soon after my return to the U.S., I had an individual session with Coach Irwin. He told me he was pleased that I still knew how to wrestle and that I didn’t “let myself go” while abroad. Regardless of any of his expectations that I met and after all of the training that I did while in Rome, I still experienced and am experiencing a rough transition to wrestling. There is no amount or type of training that can prepare the body for a beating and let’s face it, breaking down the body is exactly what wrestling does.
So now I am in the midst of my junior season and there is only one question that needs answering. Would I change my decision to study abroad? The answer is pretty simply: No, absolutely not. My experience in Europe has given me a completely different perspective on life. It taught me that the key to life is to find a balance in everything and to appreciate the small luxuries of life. For example, work ethic is a trait that I advocate developing above all others, but a work ethic that promotes the neglect of other essential parts of life is poisonous to one’s well being. It is important to develop a work ethic that is driven by focus. Focusing on the task at hand will make you more productive and therefore enable you to dedicate quality time to all of your priorities. When it is time for school, focus on school; when it is time for family, focus on family; and when it is time for wrestling, focus on wrestling. Don’t sell yourself short. Keep your focus and get the most out of life.
Drew Songer ’14
2012 Scholar All-American
I didn’t know what to expect as a freshmen coming back from break for two weeks of nothing but wrestling. At first, such a challenge sounds intimidating, but then I realized that all I have to worry about is the basic necessities: eating, sleeping and wrestling. No school, no worries, right? Just fourteen “short” days with my teammates to push through and it would all be over. Such a tough task can only make both you and the team better and make us better it did.
The week began with a team run, well more of sprint-a-thon, that would jump start our conditioning we have been missing out on the previous two weeks of break. Bounding back to the grind we successfully completed 18 workouts and practices, but who was counting them down anyway? A load this size pushes your body to the limits. I came accustomed to daily ice baths and countless stretches to make sure I was taking care of my body properly. Now I wasn’t doing this alone, I had forty of my brothers there with me to go through it with. Every day at lunch and dinner we would discuss the status of our “well-being” and talk about upcoming competitions. We also spent a good amount of time in each other’s dorm rooms (considering we were about the only ones on campus).
All kidding aside we got down to business the past two weeks and it definitely showed on the mat. The toughness in the room is really starting to transfer into our wrestling. I believe we flipped the switch to get after one another like competitors during practice, but as soon as practice is done for the night were back to being buddies. It is not every day you come across a comradery that has such an impact on you. I won’t soon forget the memorable times I have had with this group of guys traveling and competing. Traveling from state to state in buses and vans and staying in hotels with your buddies and teammates is half the fun of the sport. At the end of the day when all is said and done, you are left with what you accomplished and how you can build on it. With such a unique collection of characters, achieving the goals we have set for ourselves should come with ease and I trust that we can continually succeed and build off one another’s strengths and flaws.
Brett Thumm ’16
Being a student athlete at Wabash College is certainly a challenge. Between the academics, practices, dieting, and competitions it is easy to become discouraged. However, with that being said I am so thankful for this great opportunity and I would not change it for anything. I would like to thank my parents, the coaching staff, and God for this opportunity.
The college wrestling season is long as it spans almost five months; but, quite honestly that time flies bye. The first part of the season has been no exception. We started on the 15th of October and hit the ground running thanks to a successful preseason which consisted of several cardio, strength training, and wrestling workouts a week. The first few days of practice were spent strictly on the basics. I can honestly say that I have never been a part of a team that has been so dedicated and hard working.
This dedication and hard work has already shown signs of pay off at the Concordia Open as our team had a strong performance. The strong performance was enough to move our team up to 11th in the nation; this is the highest Wabash has been ranked at least in recent memory. I went 3-2, not a bad day considering I am moving up a weight class from last year. However, I have my goals set much higher than 3-2 performances. I know the team is shooting for much higher than 11th in the country as well; one of our team sayings this year has been “to the top”, with the hard work that ALL of us are putting in on a daily basis I know that we will continue to improve as the season moves forward.
After the Concordia Open, the coaches gave the team a seven day break to go home. However, this “break” did not mean we just went home and sat around while eating turkey on Thanksgiving. It is certainly important to get plenty of workouts in over the break so when you come back all the hard work that is put in is not lost. I was fortunately able to get in my old high school wrestling room throughout the week to continue my training over break; the majority of the team was able to do the same while being back home. By continuing this hard work over break we eliminated any potential setbacks that come from having seven days “off”. The fact that our team did not approach this break as days off, but rather maximized those days to the full potential is a testimony to the dedication of this team. As we continue our quest “to the top” we must continue to take no days off!
Patrick Parham ‘15
Well to put it simply, some days a bowl of nails for breakfast sounds like quite a delicacy. It’s a rough life as a college wrestler. To survive in this level of competitiveness you have to have a certain drive that very few people in the world have. My first wrestling coach I ever had, Paul Walker, put it perfectly when he told me, “You have to have a few screws loose in the head to wrestle.” Ask any high level wrestler, and they will tell you that there is a certain aspect of insanity that goes into just about everything we do. And in my short time that I’ve been at the college level, all of the insanity has been amplified. From all out training to our weight training and weight cutting, it is a necessity to have those couple screws loose (however the right ones need to be loose so that you can be successful in the classroom as well).
However the most prominent changes that I have picked up on would be the level of aggression and competitiveness both in our own room and in general for competitions. Coming from a good high school program, we had our fair share of talented wrestlers but there were always the less talented ones that often had to have things slowed down for them (this is not meant to offend those athletes, most of them are new and need it so there is nothing wrong with slowing things down).
But college is a whole other ballgame, your starting spot is never assured and you can’t let your guard down for a second if you want to stay on top. This is the case because we, those who wrestle in college, are no longer just doing it as something to do after school, it is far too challenging of a past-time. We do it because we have that insane inner drive to push ourselves to our limits, and then some more. Those who make it this far, but don’t have that drive, are quickly weeded out. The remaining members are the cream of the crop. And that is exactly how I see our team at this point, tough and ready get after it this year. We may be ranked 16th in the nation starting out, but no rank matters until after the heavyweight NCAA D-III National Championship match. But with the way our team has been working, we are going to show people that 16th isn’t nearly high enough.
Tim Locksmith ‘16
Coming into college, I thought I was completely prepared for what lied ahead. Sure, the classes would be harder and the wrestling schedule would demand a bit more of my time than I had planned, but I was ready for anything and would make an easy adjustment. I was wrong.
Unfortunately, my public school education did not make me work that hard to achieve success in my high school career. I could merely show up to class, take some notes, and get straight A’s with almost no studying. What a shock it was to me when my first college test was returned to me with a nice big C on it (just to let everybody know it was Physics 111). Now, I must say I was rather distraught after seeing this “horrendous” grade, until I saw that I did better than half the class on that very test. This put me at ease a little, but I was still determined to reform my study habits. This process has not been easy, but it is coming along. My shock at the transition to college athletics was quite a bit less intense than to the academic portion of Wabash. The main difference is the intensity level and being on the bottom of the totem pole again. It was strange to go from being at the top of the ladder as a senior to being knocked back down to a lowly freshman once more. Even more strange was going from being able to handle anyone in my high school room with ease to being constantly challenged on the Wabash mats. Competition breads success though, and that transition may turn out to be the most beneficial for my college career.
Now both transitions have been somewhat difficult, but managing the two together has made it even more interesting. Studying sucks. It sucks even more when you feel like you’re about to fall into an eight hour slumber. Unfortunately, this is often the feeling after practices. I have never valued sleep as I do now, which is ironic because I have never gotten less of it. I hope that managing the weight lifting, practice, and work from classes will get easier as I get more accustomed to it, but for the time being I am still trying to figure out the best system. Balancing the two is worth it though, and I will eventually get the hang of it. I believe competing in wrestling gives me many advantages that I would not have if I chose not to play a sport at Wabash. Sure there is the better need for time management, the competition that spills over into the classroom and helps make me successful, and the comradely between teammates. But the most important advantage is that without wrestling, I would become extremely fat and resort to playing video games and eating chips to fill the void in my time. So balancing the two, however hard it may be, is completely worth it.
Abe Hall ’16
I didn’t know what to expect going into my first pre-season as a senior, since I played football the past few years. However, I did know one thing. I was going to work to my highest ability and push my teammates along with me. I believe that was accomplished through everyone’s hard work and desire to get better. I truly believe in the idea that the harder one works, the harder it is for one to surrender. I think this concept directly correlates with the sport of wrestling. If everyone works as hard as they can every time they lace up to train, they would not like to surrender or lose a single match. Seeing everyone on the team from freshmen to upperclassmen work as hard as they did in the pre season, I believe no one will surrender during their time on the mat.
With that being said, it seems to me that this team is hungry to take the mat and not look back. However, throughout the season in order to obtain our team goals we have to keep this high intensity throughout the entire season and not become complacent. Once this team finds its rhythm and realizes its capabilities—while at the same time not becoming satisfied for just mediocre—the sky will be the limit.
I feel as though my job as a captain on this team is to make sure everyone is on the same page and ensure that when anyone of us steps on the mat, it’s going to be war. I want this team to bring a sense of wreckless-abandonment to the mat. I realize that one of the deciding factors on how far I will go individually depends on how the coaches and my teammates will push me. With that, I know it comes back to how I am going to push these new-comers. If I show them I truly care and that I’m there for them, I know I could rely on them to motivate me when I might need it. Col. Jeff Cooper stated, “The fear of sporting failure is worse than the fear of death,” which I hope everyone on this team realizes and understands before I graduate.