As of this writing on a Friday afternoon, the Southern Boone High School wrestling team had not yet competed in their first match. That took place on the night after this paper was

Bruce Wallace

Bruce Wallace

printed Tuesday afternoon.

Yet, with a record of 0-0, the Eagles wrestling team is full of winners before they even competed.

The two-dozen or so Eagles wrestlers are attempting a new sport which is as difficult as any sport out there. Certainly the most physical.

Think about the last time you tried to do something new that is akin to riding a bike for the first time. I don’t even like to try new foods, take a new route to work or change any of those Christmas family traditions.

But these guys are trying a new sport in which, since they don’t know even half the techniques their opponents will likely know, they will be tackled to the mat, have their opponent drive a shoulder into their back and then attempt to twist their arm out of their shoulder socket.

Did I say it’s a physically demanding sport?

But as I said above, the Eagles are winners regardless of whether or not they get their arm raised. How’s that?

It’s what they will learn from wrestling that is different than many other sports.

What makes wrestling different than many other sports is pretty simple – personal responsibility for what happens on the mat and a toughness that makes you capable of chewing nails, pounding rocks into pebbles and moving mountains.

Now I’m all for team sports. Team sports teaches, in its simplest form, cooperation and team spirit and camaraderie. That’s great stuff to use later in life, whether you are working on a group project at the office, as a member of a booster club or on a church board.

Wrestling provides something a little different. When you are out there on the mat, there is no teammate to block for you. No teammate to throw you the perfect pass that makes you look good as you score a layup. No teammate to get a hit so you can score from second base.

There is just… And your opponent. And your parents, classmates and girlfriend in the stands.

Let me tell you from personal experience, it is the loneliest feeling in the world to be on center stage and get yourself drilled into the mat in front of the home crowd – and nearly everyone who steps onto the mat has had that experience.

On the flip side, every wrestler who has his hand raised is pretty sure he can move mountains.

There is a team aspect to high school wrestling, but if you walk off the mat on the short end of the score, it is little consolation if your team wins the match.

Wrestling is a sport that stretches an athletes belief of what they can physically achieve. The winners are usually the most well-conditioned, practiced, smartest, and more aggressive athlete.

But in the world after high school athletics, wrestling provides a discipline for young men which goes beyond any activity I’ve experienced.

Whether it is on the job or in your family life, the skills and discipline you learn in wrestling are a training of a different kind that stay with you forever.