Wrestling and character development

Taking a breather from eco-arguments with Neil Snarr, I wanted to speak of something on the lighter side — a sport.

As practice begins for the wrestling season here in Wilmington, I am glad to hear reports that there are a couple dozen athletes in training for this year’s team. The sport is a wonderful means of character development.

Mack Remington, writing for ezinearticles.com, reports in an article on the Navy SEALs that “Wrestlers are viewed by many as the toughest athletes in the world and it is not surprising to members of the wrestling community that their peers enjoy great success during Navy SEAL training and while serving in operational SEAL units.”

Like boxing or the more popular team sports, in wrestling there are the variables in the unpredictable movements of an opponent. The differences in strength, speed, style, and stamina bear reciprocally upon the pair of combatants and influence their strategies for victory. The grueling and lengthy time of preparation ends with a very short and intense contest — just six minutes in high school.

Two of the long-recognized “four cardinal virtues” — prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance – are especially cultivated in the wrestler. He learns fortitude and temperance in driving his body onward with rigorous physical workouts and then denies himself the pleasure of eating in order to maximize his competitive edge. But more emphatically, he regularly develops a particular one of the “seven heavenly virtues” – humility.

When he loses, he gets the blame. And it is quite personal. He loses alone. There is no one else to share his defeat and whatever shame attaches to it. He must take responsibility for the loss.

But in victory, if he is really understanding the way things work, he must give credit to his coaches and to the God who gave him the skills to succeed. Character is built. His is grateful, not proud, in victory. Character is built in the wrestler.

In these contests, they simulate a most ancient and ubiquitous feature of human existence – war. They look upon one another as fellow warriors, each taking his turn to undergo another soul-wrenching battle.

How appropriate that many of our national political leaders and soldiers have also been wrestlers, from George Washington and Abraham Lincoln to Norman Schwarzkopf and John McCain.

Long may the sport continue in our land, and may our community do all it can to encourage the participation of its young men for their personal good and for that of the community and nation.

Mike Bray