On his 70th birthday, Paul J. Meyer, reached the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro, one of the highest peaks in the world and held up a sign for all the world to see. It read, “ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING”. He wanted the world to know that anything is possible with the right attitude.
In wrestling, and in my life, I can attest to the words held up by Mr. Meyer on the top of that mountain. During my first year of college (Redshirt year), I took more than my share of lumps in the wrestling room. During my second year (Redshirt Freshman), two world class wrestlers came on as freestyle coaches, Sammie Henson and Tony Purler. Both would eventually make the world team the following year, and Sammie would become World Champion. If I thought I had taken my lumps my first year, it was nothing compared to my second year. My brother Shane and I would spend most of the regular practice time in an old dilapidated back room working individually with Sammie and Tony. Nothing was easy. From the moment we stepped into that dilapidated back room, whether it was drilling moves, hand fighting, lifting weights, or conditioning I knew it was going to be tough. As tough as it was, nothing compared to the live wrestling. The live wrestling was hell. Day after day, month after month, I would be pushed to the point of exhaustion and then taken down at will repeatedly by two of the best wrestlers in the world.
During my 3rd year (Redshirt Sophomore), this routine with Sammie and Tony continued. I became discouraged. I knew technically that I had the skills to be a great wrestler but that didn’t seem to matter when I wrestled Sammie or Tony. They beat me regardless of how hard I worked or how much extra time I put in. To make things worse, the tough workouts were not translating into wins elsewhere. I still hadn’t made the starting line-up and things weren’t looking good for me to make it.
Finally, one night after a particularly “rough” workout, I lay in my bed and for the first time I considered my future in wrestling. I had three options. I could quit. I could continue to just take my lumps and suffer through like I had been, or I could start fighting. I had never quit in anything so that was out. The thought of getting beat up for another 3 years was unbearable so that was also out. With only one option left I decided I had better start fighting. I decided that night that I was going to have a different attitude toward my practices in the back room. I wasn’t just going to accept getting beat up everyday. I was going to fight every second of every practice for every single takedown. I was going to kick, scratch, bite, punch and do whatever it took but I was not going to be taken down at will anymore.
From that moment on my wrestling career changed. I remember the first time I fought out of a single leg by Sammie. I was trying white a little shocked, but I think Sammie was even more shocked. I’ll never forget the smirk Sammie had on his face. I think he was both upset because he didn’t get the takedown and happy because he knew I was there to battle him now, and finally he could make me better. I would like to say that I began taking down Sammie and Tony regularly at practice, but the truth is that throughout the rest of my college career I probably only got a handful of takedowns on either one of them. The difference was my attitude.
As the practices continued, Sammie and Tony, continued to push me harder and harder, but I no longer dreaded them. I looked forward to them. My confidence began to soar as I would go through entire live wrestling sessions and only give up a handful of takedowns to two of the best wrestlers in the world. I started placing at some of the open college tournaments. Then I beat my first ranked opponent at the National Duals. Eventually, I would make the starting line-up and earn All-America honors at the NCAA Division I National Championships that year.
Looking back, I realize that I was very close to not accomplishing any of this. I often ask myself what it was that changed that night in bed when I decided to fight. The answer is simple. I REALLY DIDN’T DO ANYTHING PHYSICALLY DIFFERENT THAT I HADN’T DONE THE PREVIOUS 2 YEARS. IT WAS MY ATTITUDE THAT CHANGED… AND ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING.