Are you ready to beat the impossible?
By Steve Fraser, December 15, 2016
How do people achieve what most think is impossible? Back in the day, who would have thought someone could walk on the moon? Not too many years ago, who would have thought we could power a handheld device that allowed us to communicate with people around the world; get an answer to just about any question we might have; take quality videos and photos; all by using wifi? Have you heard that in the near future our automobiles will steer themselves?
In the grueling historic sport of Greco-Roman wrestling, there have been some miracles that have happened too. There have been some great achievements that most everyone, during the times, thought were impossible to achieve.
What people think is impossible today, will be reality tomorrow! We can count on this.
In regards to Greco-Roman wrestling, we first have to understand the vast distance that the United States of America had to travel to be successful in the sport.
Just a few decades ago, in world and Olympic competition, our international Greco wrestling family hoped to draw a wrestler from the USA in the first round. Why? Because it was thought to be an easy match. No one would have ever imagined that Team USA — Greco would accomplish so much.
Keep in mind; we were up against countries like Russia, who have thousands of wrestlers at the same level as our 50 top wrestlers. Russia has over 10,000 serious clubs/training centers, including over 10,000 professional paid coaches. The USA has five or six programs. And we only have about ten full-time paid Greco coaches.
Even with this huge difference in our programs, the U.S. Greco program was able to close the gap and has posted huge successes in past years. One of the biggest came in 2007 when our team became World team champions, in Baku, Azerbaijan. This is the first time in our history that our Greco-Roman team has won a World title. Not too many folks, in the United States or in the world, for that matter, thought this was possible!
I wonder how many people in the world thought it possible for Rulon Gardner to beat the Russian super-star, Alexander Karelin, in the Sydney Olympic Games? Karelin hadn’t been beaten in 13 years and was going for his fourth Olympic gold medal. Then, there was Helen Maroulis defeating Yoshida from Japan and Kyle Snyder, youngest Olympic Gold Medalist at age 20, in US history!
So, how is it that these accomplishments were attained, and how can they happen again?
First, we have to set the vision. We must paint the picture for all to see. As coaches, we have got to get people excited about the possibilities of great success. As athletes, we must visualize this great success. We must see ourselves crushing our opponents and winning the big titles. We have got to think big! I would actually dream about this regularly!
Second, we need to develop the plan of attack and create the strategy that will move us in the direction of the vision. This plan must include training and preparation tactics that involve doing very tough and almost crazy activity. We must do what most others are not willing to do.
This is why I thrived on wrestling two-hour grind matches with Mark Churella, a three-time NCAA champion and one tough individual. Mark would have no mercy on me during our training sessions. Then there were those 6 a.m. runs every morning; traveling across the state to train with other accomplished wrestlers; wrestling on my wedding day; are all examples of doing what most people would not be willing to do.
Michigan’s three-time NCAA champ Mark
Churella rose the level of training for friends and foes.
And when times get tough, we must keep the faith. We must believe in each other and the plan we have created. Staying persistent and relentless, no matter what obstacles confront us.
Then as we test ourselves in competition, we must continue re-evaluating and adjusting where needed. Adjust what skills we need to improve while staying determined at following our plan or attack. Believing in our plan and trusting that it will get us where we want to be.
Of course, for me, enjoying the battle and the journey (not just the winning) along the way made it fun. I loved nothing more than leaving the wrestling room – after a tough, grueling, exhausting practice, soaked with sweat from head to toe. The more “spent” I felt, the happier I was. I remember the shower water would actually sting my raw skin.
“Running” in the worst blizzard you can imagine, would be another example. The frigid snow pelting my face as the swirling wind would push me from side to side. Of course, there was no one in sight, but a few stray dogs trying to find cover.
Remember friends, we are all going to die someday. Who knows when?! We have got to go for broke! In the big picture, we are only on the planet for a very short time. Why not totally “go for it” and do what many might think is “Impossible?!”
(Steve Fraser, the chief of donor and alumni relations for USA Wrestling, became the first American Greco-Roman wrestler to win an Olympic gold medal in 1984 before he spent 20 years (1995-2014) coaching the U.S. Greco-Roman team, producing eight Olympic medalists and a World team title in 2007.)