It is not difficult to recognize heroes. Heroes never proclaim themselves. Heroes always enhance others.
But sometimes we nod our head in acknowledgement, without truly embracing the magnitude of the performance, or highlighting the precious uniqueness, and rarity, of the venture, or its treasured impact.
As an old-timer, ah…, semi old-timer, I was impressed, motivated, and inspired by the US Freestyle victory at the World Championships in France.
Not because of what was accomplished, but because of how it was accomplished. We are measured in life by what we do, but more so by the way we do it.
Kyle Snyder and Jordan Burroughs stand taller than the rest. Not because they won, but because they are winners.
I am not personal friends with either, but feel like I have known them all my life. I was immersed in wrestling as a college coach for 36 years, driven, like my peers, to build, and mold, and influence young wrestlers to compete, and think and act like… well, Kyle Snyder and Jordan Burroughs.
The real tale of the tape… No bravado and pompous arrogance. Oodles of confidence, predicated by constant reference to hard work, and diligence, and resolve. Palpable respect for their opponents displayed during every bout and every interview. Dedicated commitment of time, effort and energy to youth and the sport they love. No excuses, ever. Outward concern and control of their personal and social lives.
There is no greater force in our human universe than influence. Every time I see them compete, I feel good. Wrestling is great, but they make it a better. Their finals’ matches were two of the most entertaining and hard fought contests I have ever witnessed, and I commentated on hundreds of phenomenal matches of our wrestling legends.
It is sad that at the same time Kyle and Jordan led the US to its first Freestyle World title in 22 years, sports news was dominated by a boxing clown fest, which epitomized greed, hatred and public manipulation.
Jordan’s comeback to the top of the wrestling world represents the hardest, most demanding focus and commitment in the athletic world. It doesn’t happen often, and is further testimony to his special character. He IS a five time World and Olympic Champion.
Kyle will be 22 this year... 22! He’s already a three time World and Olympic Champion, and crazy times crazy, will celebrate his historic accomplishment preparing to win his third NCAA Title. Did I say crazy yet?
As a wrestler who trained and competed on the World and Olympic stage for ten years, these guys are MY heroes. Been there, tried that. I only knocked on the door, that they blasted open.
I want us all to recognize and appreciate their success, but to admire most, how they carried themselves on the road to victory; and how honestly, humbly, and respectfully they paid homage and tribute to the sport, and their opponents, after claiming what they worked, sacrificed, and fought hard to EARN.
Competition is the greatest experience in life. If it is done right, somebody wins, somebody loses, but everybody gains! We were fortunate to actually observe this as it unfolded at the top level of wrestling competition. It’s worth embracing for a lifetime.
Congratulations to all who played a role in this special run, and contributed to a unique and rare and treasured outcome.
Hats off, also, to the continued growth and success of Women’s Freestyle wrestling and particularly to a dominant three-time World and Olympic Champion Helen Maroulis.
On behalf of all my grandchildren, thank you for your leadership. There is nothing more contagious than example.
National Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee Russ Hellickson was a 1976 Olympic silver medalist in men’s freestyle wrestling, 1980 Olympian and two-time World medalist. Hellickson retired as the head coach at Ohio State after many years as one of the top college coaches in the nation. He served as an announcer for both ABC’s and NBC’s coverage of wrestling at numerous Olympic Games, and also announced many other major wrestling competitions.