That is the theme for this year’s team. Show gratitude for all that you have – your health to be able to participate in the great sport of wrestling, your family as they support you in your journey, the chance to be in the practice room and on a storied program rich in tradition, your coaches for all that they give up to help you realize your dreams, and for your teammates that push you every day in the room and go to battle with you. Realize what you have been blessed with and be grateful in everyday life.
The theme is derived from the experiences of last year when one of their brothers, Connor Bartlett, was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Connor fought against all odds last season and defeated it. He is back in the room this year for his senior year. Below is a letter that Connor’s father wrote to the coach to read for the team. Coach Vogel read this the first day of practice this past Monday. The photo is of the team praying after he read it. This year will be a special one – Go Mules!!!
Today begins your wrestling season. I want to remind you of what’s at stake, and possibly make you aware of the unbelievable potential for greatness and capacity for reward represented by this opportunity to be a part of such a unique sport with such a special coaching staff. This year, you will be led by a group of seniors who are worthy of leadership, not because they are great athletes (though some of them are) and not because they are the best wrestlers in the state (though some may be). They deserve it because they have endured trials of competition and have forced themselves to face down their greatest opponent (themselves) by going through a gauntlet of manhood that few could understand who haven’t been wrestlers. Gentlemen, that wrestling room is sacred ground. It is holy. It is the place that God can use to change the course of your future and the destiny of your life … IF you will let it … IF you will believe it … IF you will be humble … IF you will be teachable … IF you will let the first be last and the last, first … IF you will embrace servant hood as passionately as you pursue individual achievement.
One of the seniors on your team is my son. I love him more than I love my life, my home, my job, my health, my happiness, and all that I possess, experience and know. I don’t love him because he is the best athlete at Bedford (he isn’t) or because he could snap Cage’s neck in a fight (he couldn’t) or because he will win State’s and his senior year will be like Louden Swain’s in ‘Vision Quest’ (it won’t). I love my son because of what’s in his heart.
I want you freshman to hear me. My son decided to become a wrestler for the first time in his life two days before the season started his freshman year. Everyone told him he was crazy. He literally didn’t know what a singlet was. The first day of practice he showed up in jeans, a sweater, and tennis shoes. The coach told him if he wanted to be on the team, to run and wrestle in what he was wearing. Everyone laughed. Connor did it. That night I dropped about 200 dollars at Dicks Sporting Goods so he wouldn’t look like an idiot the next day. Connor spent the next two years getting his butt handed to him on a silver platter. He never complained. In fact, to my amazement, there was something in him that craved it, that needed it. I didn’t understand it and probably never would have had it not been for the trial which none of us knew was awaiting him. At the end of his sophomore year, Connor won a tournament in Detroit. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t breathe I was so proud. It was one of the greatest evenings of my life. I was amazed by what singular dedication and ability to simply listen to his coaches had done for my son. He had muscles. He was aggressive. He was confident. He was tough. He was everything I ever dreamed he would be. He was … a man. I wanted to kiss the coach but I figured that probably was a bad idea. Connor agreed.
That night, on the drive home, Connor complained of not having stamina and being almost unable to finish the first period of his matches. He had to strategize to even preserve energy. He was confused and even seemed a little worried. I will never forgive myself for this but I was so happy, I thought nothing of it. Five weeks later he collapsed in homeroom. Five hours later he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer that had spread to 21 places in his body. They removed 34% of his lungs and chunks of his liver. A year ago this November 24, I was told Connor likely had 3 days to live, being in imminent danger of septic shock. He was at peace.
In the early morning hours, I crept into his hospital room and asked him if he was ready to see the Lord. He nodded, ‘yes’. He whispered to me he was prepared to die but was not yet willing to and was going to keep fighting. Then (and I will never forget this) my son looked at me, barely gasping out, “Dad, it’s a sin to do less than your best.” Men, do you know what Connor did when he found himself pinned to the mat by a formidable, aggressive, powerful opponent? He kept arching his neck. He kept reaching above. He kept churning his legs. He kept looking up at the coach for instructions. He didn’t panic. He didn’t cry. He didn’t get angry. He didn’t quit. Do you know where he learned that? In that aforementioned holy, sacred, room, the very room where you now take a knee. Do you know who taught him that? The same coaches and seniors whom God has placed in your life as a gift. But you HAVE to see it for what it is! In our family, we believe in God and we give all credit and praise to His Son, Jesus Christ. However, we recognize God grants us gifts to work His love and strength and power through. God gave Connor the gift of Jesus Christ to save his soul. BUT … God also gave Connor … He gave me … He gave my wife, my family, my church, something to save his life. Do you what that was? It was Bedford wrestling.
Give it your all, boys! At every practice … every drill … every moment … every second. Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t sell each other short. Someday life is coming for you; some great conflict that will pin you to the mat and tempt you to quit … to dip your colors … to capitulate. You will never have a better opportunity to prepare yourself for that day of temptation than right now … with these men, in this place, with this sport. Your attitude today may, one day, save your marriage, your job, your reputation … it may, indeed, (as it did with my son) save your life. Stop for a moment. Look around. You are surrounded by a gift from God. Don’t squander it. It’s precious. Don’t sin against yourselves and your teammates. Don’t sin against your family and friends. Don’t sin against your coaches and your school. Don’t sin against your community and your future. Don’t sin against God. Remember this lesson from one of your leaders:
“It’s a SIN to do LESS than your BEST.”
Benefits of the Olympic Styles of Wrestling
BY MATT KRUMRIE | SEPT. 14, 2017, 10:43 A.M. (ET)
The most complete wrestlers take advantage of every opportunity to develop and learn. One way young wrestlers can do that is by participating in and practicing the Olympic styles of wrestling—freestyle and Greco-Roman.