I decided to write about this because of the wonderful Centre Daily Times article by Guy Cipriano on Adam Lynch.
Adam is the point man for two sets of circumstances on the team. The first is the seniors who are leaving. Only one, Brad Pataky, is in the lineup, showing you how young the team is. That only one, at the end of the year, will actively contribute points says a lot about where the future of the team is. Although all of them believe the future starts with now.
The other is the team’s collective improvement—everyone is better. Adam, Brian Pearsall, James English and Jim Vollrath, to name just a few, have improved dramatically before my eyes. All these guys have been in the lineup, though not in the lineup at the end, representing four wrestlers who would score and perhaps place at the nationals. The weight classes these guys are the back-ups for may wind up scoring 50 to 75 points for us at the nationals, in a tournament this year that could be won at 90, given the bunchings at the top.
I wasn’t as good as these guys: the seniors (Adam, Eric Caschera, Mike Lorenzo, Brad Pataky and Jim Vollrath) and the backups we have now. But I did improve dramatically from the Jersey JV wrestler I was when I walked on, enough so that if I couldn’t win much in a Penn State uniform, I would do well in tournaments. And I noticed that when the seniors were introduced, over the course of their careers they had amassed a lot of wins—a testament to how much they have improved.
So let me talk about the seniors on our squad from the angle I see them here, which is strictly my own opinion.
While doing what he did is impressive—coming back into the teeth of the known tiger(s) that would be waiting (if you have followed wrestling here, you may have heard of the Alton twins)—it won’t be until somewhere down the line that he realizes how valuable this was! For while one dream may be ending now, he and all these guys—if they really learn the lesson of this journey—will use it for the next journey. The object is to fight forward from where you stand, not look back at what was. Even though one dream ends, it may fuel that fire that drives you to do bigger things and has you ready for them.
I don't know Eric that well except to say hi to him. All those years on the team and his perseverance when the entire fight was uphill say a lot about his character, and in the end, character is the backbone of anyone trying to reach beyond his grasp. But being ready to fight when one does not know whether one will be called upon to fight is tough to do. Sort of like being in the National Guard. And those people, along with the rest of our armed forces, are heroes. But what he has done will serve him well.
Jim Vollrath walked on as a senior and, in talking to his coaches, earned their respect. It’s tough for a coaching staff to say: "OK, we will let a senior walk on." Why should that happen? If he really loved this, where was he before? But if you have been watching closely the past couple of years, you may have noticed the men who have fallen away, victims of the price they pay for one reason or the other. It usually ends in their blaming someone else for why things didn't go their way in the room. Jim hung in, and he is standing at the end with his blanket. You don’t get that blanket in wrestling here unless you earned it.
Truth be told, I knew he would. After all, his parents are wonderful people and his father, Bill Vollrath, was the start of what was referred to as Murderers Row on our 1977 team, a dual meet squad that rarely suffered a loss between 150 and 190 (such were the weight classes in those days).
The only starter of the bunch is poised to o great things. I love this kid. Brad Pataky is the embodiment of never retreat and only reroute. And though his journey has been longer, and the road tougher with all the injuries, it may be that with wheels on fire he rolls downhill into the nationals. Folks, no one knows the future (the weather can teach you that), but if Brad rolls into the nationals and surprises people counting him out, it won't be a surprise to anyone who really knows him. In fact, it may be more a question of getting by the Big Tens. Ever look at the podium in the Big Tens after it's over? Rarely is anyone smiling…even the winner.
Then there is Mike Lorenzo. Mike has a father who is as big to him in wrestling as my dad is to me in weather. Truth be told, one of the things that drives me is that I am trying to measure up to my dad. Not so much in what people see as the visible accomplishments, but the character that I know that he is made of. I don’t know if Mike thinks of that, but I can understand what it’s like to have that kind of light in front of you. The key to success: realizing that the father you came from is not shining to blind you, but to guide you. And the moms are huge in that equation, too -- the power behind everything.
But I think that Mike’s wrestling career will pave the way for great things down the road. I never really talked to him about that, but it’s no shame in trying to measure up to those who came before you. I am still trying to do it, but it’s ironic in that there comes a day when you realize all your parents wanted was for you to find your own way to build on what they did. That’s the great trade-off of being a real parent: trying to give your kids the chance to do more than you. Not to hand them the result, but the chance to get a better result. Michael will use wrestling as fuel to drive him to something greater.
His dad, who is someone I often go to for advice, is like mine. He’s as wise as he is tough.
I guess that is what Mike and I may have in common: trying to be wiser and tougher than our dads. Ha, Mike: That’s gonna be tough. Good thing you wrestled to prepare you for that challenge.
The willingness to fight to move up, taught by this sport, is why wrestling is so valuable to anyone who truly embraces it. As soon as the college form of wrestling was done, I set another physical goal and used that discipline and training to fuel the goal I was meant to have, which was to forecast the weather.
That has now evolved into a simple mission, to build the greatest long-range weather forecasting center in the world. I still believe I can do that, but I do understand that one has to constantly fight upward, and like wrestling, be able to adjust or, if need be, change the circumstances you are in. Even more important, no matter the outcome, know you did what you had to do. This is an eternal lesson that goes back to the parable of the talents, those words of approval for giving it all for something higher: "Well done, good and faithful servant."
That is the value of the sport. Its inescapable grip on the souls of those who embrace it demands that one fights and, in the end, knows it’s because of what you did, not someone else’s actions, that will determine the outcome. Either you believe something about yourself or you don't, and the only way to know is to test yourself.
Adam and the rest of our seniors are moving on, but I think that by wrestling under these coaches, they will find out the same thing I did wrestling under Bill Koll and Andy Matter, and then forming friendships with Rich Lorenzo and John Fritz. Wrestling never ends. It takes on different forms, and if you really want to wrestle, you have to be willing to test yourself constantly.
Adam and the seniors will realize all this to be true. It is about winning and losing, but you know the answer only if you are willing to prepare, be tested and then fight.
It’s why I think this is the greatest sport on the planet.