Friday, February 25, 2011

When Your Back is Against the Wall

(Note: The following is a post by Justin Brown, one of the students in the Sports Information Services class that I'm teaching for the first time this semester. We talked about social media in class on Wednesday. When I asked the 21 people in the class if they had ever blogged, not a single person raised their hand. Well, I got snowed in today, so I decided to cancel class and instead have them try their hand at writing a blog. This was what Justin sent me. Let me know what you think.)

Last week was the three year mark of an event that has been a great learning experience for me and has propelled me in reaching goals in my life. The setting was the 2008 Central District Sectional wrestling tournament. At 145 pounds I entered the tournament ready to stand up to a metaphorical bully that had gotten the best of me for three years. I battled feelings of self-doubt, “Was I really going to fail to qualify for the fourth straight year?” What happened to the freshman phenom that was ranked in the top five in Central Ohio?

In the postseason of wrestling the top four place winners of each sectional advance on to the next stage of the competition. The first three years of my career I had accomplished some great things, but at the same time a lot of people would say that I had underachieved. I missed qualifying to the Central District tournament three straight years, when my talents and abilities were certainly capable of doing far more than that. Each time I missed qualification it set off an emotional train wreck. I can vividly remember the feeling each time, exhaustion, disappointment, on top of breathtaking sobs of tears. Each year my heart was broken on the mat; but I kept coming back.

This year in my senior year I was ready to attain what I set out for at a young age. I felt unstoppable, confident, and unbeatable. Put Hulk Hogan on the mat with me, I didn’t care; I’d whoop him with ease. At least that’s how I felt. I had a first round bye, and then I lost my second match. Are you kidding me? And it wasn’t even to Hulk Hogan either. I fell to the consolation bracket, needing to rattle off win after win, if I lost one more match my career was over, and more sobs of despair were waiting for me. My back was against the wall.

I sat in the bleachers in a mental funk that was surely going to lead me to what I didn’t want to do. I was going to be bullied yet again, for a fourth straight year. Demons of doubt surrounded me and something had to change. My mom was that change, without saying a word she handed me her iPod cued up to a song that I had never heard, but I listen to often now. It was “All These Things I Have Done” By the Killers. I recommend this song to anybody who needs a pick me up. Suddenly I was back to my confident self, ready to string together the best day of wrestling in my career.

Match after match, win after win I began rolling. I had dominated two more opponents as I wrestled the way I needed to. My dad described me as “A man on a mission.” The two wins in the consolation brought me one win away from where I needed to be. This was the infamous “go-to” match. Win and you advance to the next event, lose and you go home. I had already experienced the go home aspect of the “go-to” match in my career, and now I was trying to avoid it again.

I was set to face off against a freshman from Mount Vernon named Jordan Montgomery. As the match got closer and closer I began warming up on the side, bouncing to pick up a sweat and get lose. Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” blaring from my headphones. I felt calm and confident, I stared at Montgomery as we warmed up, looked him dead in the eyes and thought to myself “He has never been here before, he is a freshman facing a senior, he is more nervous than you.” We walked on to the mat and I thought “Wait your turn; I’ve waited my turn, now you wait yours.”And it began. Six minutes later I yelled out a piercing scream of celebration. Finally I had done it; finally I beat the bully, this time the tears down my face were not from despair but rather joy.

I think of this event often, it taught me a lot about myself, and it has propelled me to do some great things in other goals in my life especially with baseball at MVNU. What a person does when their back is against the wall says a lot about who they are. I thrive on those go for broke moments, I think that is why I love being a reliever so much. You enter the game often times with your back against the wall, and the teams back against the wall. Either lie down and die, or start swinging at the bully. What is the bully in your own life? The time to stand up to it is now. Go for broke.


Chris Syme said...

Good future in writing, I think. Nice post, Justin. Good luck and keep writing--you're good at it.

Pam R said...

Interesting blog and coincidental that I would read it today. Jordan Montgomery was just recently named sectional champ and is in the district tournament this afternoon. Maybe as a senior himself now, this will be his day to shine as well. Thanks for sharing your story Justin.

Chad said...

Very well written! Great job meeting your goals and thanks for the inspiring words.