April 2, 2003
Tuesday, March 18 - I woke up early today after learning who I would be facing in the first round of nationals last night, I was a little anxious but it seems that I've got a pretty good draw. After packing and dropping off a paper to class, it was off to practice at 3:30 with Joe Alexander and Tim Foley, the other two qualifiers, minus Josh Etu, who injured his knee at the last minute and won't be wrestling.
After going through a light workout and going over some last minute strategy for our first round matches, we boarded a small jet to Kansas City and arrived at about 10:30 at night.
Wednesday, March 19 - Today I woke up early and went for a two and a half mile run to get a couple of pounds closer to weight. Afterwards we were all just trying to relax before our afternoon practice either by sleeping or playing XBox in Foley's hotel room.
Our afternoon practice today was again pretty light, and we focused mainly on trying to lose as much weight as possible, so that the next morning our bodies would recover quicker after weigh - ins. This is essential in preparing to be on the top of your game for the first match of the tournament.
After the workout, Joe and Tim went back to the hotel while myself and Coach Bernstein attended the opening ceremonies of nationals, where they introduced one coach and one wrestler from each team to the fans and had legendary speakers such as Dan Gable and Cael Sanderson address the audience. After the ceremony, I was starting to feel tired from the weight cutting that day and decided it was time to go home and get a good night's sleep.
Thursday, March 20 - Today was the first day of competition in Kansas City and there was a lot of excitement as we entered the arena for the first time and saw the 15,000 fans that were there to watch the action. Our team's fortunes looked to be favorable in the first match of the day when Tim Foley beat George Carter from Bloomsburg, a wrestler who he'd lost to earlier in the year. Next, Joe lost his first round match to nationally ranked Mark Jayne from Illinois who came into the tournament ranked in the top 10 in the country. Soon after Joe's match, it was my turn to be called and I was probably a little more nervous than Tim or Joe because it was my first time wrestling in front of a crowd that size. Despite my nerves, I was able to earn a victory and make to the second round of wrestling that night, which made me a little more comfortable going into the night's matches. Finally, because he had drawn a pigtail match before the first round, Tim had to wrestle again in the morning session and lost his first round match to Alex Tirapelle, who would eventually make the finals of the tournament.
Once we were all done in the morning session, all three of us, along with the coaching staff, went back to our hotel and got some lunch and tried to rest again before returning to the arena in four hours.
Tonight's second session was not as fruitful for our team as the first, as we all lost in this round. This meant that Joe and Tim were done with the tournament and I would have the chance to wrestle in the wrestle - backs on Friday morning. I can't speak for the other guys, but my loss symbolized the emotional roller - coaster of a college wrestling season, in that, one minute you can be on top of the world with a win, then the next you have to fight the doubts in your head that start to arise after a loss. So despite my failure to win my second match, I had to immediately throw on my warm - ups and start working out for about forty minutes in order to make weight the following morning. After the workout, I remained to watch the rest of the session's action and said goodbye to my parents before our team returned to the hotel and I went to sleep.
Friday, March 21 - I had to wake up at 7am this morning in order to go to the arena early with our assistant coach, Chuck Connor, in order to get a wrestling workout in before weigh-ins and lose the last couple of pounds I started to work off last night. After making weight, we only had one hour until we had to wrestle our third round matches so it doesn't allow that much time for your body to recover fully and I just had to try to get in a good amount of water and some sort of food before the match.
At approximately 10am, wrestling began and my name was called. I knew going into my match that I faced elimination if I lost and that definitely helped give me a little extra motivation. I also knew I was wrestling Gabe Vigil from Boise State, who was ranked in the top 10 and would provide a tough match. Our match was very low scoring and after six minutes, my opponent was winning 1-0, then with approximately 2 seconds left on the clock, I was able to get a take down and win the match 2-1. I would say that this was the biggest win of my season and there's nothing that can describe the feeling of beating your opponent one on one in front of 15,000 people.
After this win I was called up an hour later to wrestle my second match of the day in the round of 16. I knew I just had two matches to go to be an All - American and I felt good going into the match. Unfortunately, the tables turned in this match and I ended up losing an early 2-1 lead and thus ending my run at placing top 8 in the country. After my loss, our team was out of the tournament, however we stayed Saturday to watch the finals and flew home Sunday afternoon.
All in all, our national tournament and my career ended on a less than desirable note, but in the sport of wrestling, you have to sometimes have a short memory of negatives and focus more on the positives. Both Tim and Joe may have the opportunity to return next year and succeed at their goals of being All - Americans & National Champions. As for me, I will use the lessons I have learned from the sport of wrestling, my teammates, and my coaches for the rest of my life.