There is nothing like the sight
Of an amputated spirit.
There’s no prosthetic for that.
Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade
The Scent of a Woman
If you watch closely, you can see it happen in every wrestling tournament.
A match where one wrestler fights and another decides to quit.
A match between two evenly matched wrestlers where one wrestler breaks the others will.
A match where one wrestler convinces his opponent that he will not win, and his opponent believes him, and he stops trying.
An experienced eye can pick up the exact moment when it happens.
It may happen after one wrestler gets shut down after a relentless offensive pursuit.
Or gives up points on the line, or on a cheap tilt or allows his opponent to score with short time or come out on the wrong side of an extraordinary scramble, or he lets a bad call affect his focus and his mental state.
Whenever and however it happens, the shift in the effort by one wrestler is dramatic.
A once-tight score suddenly gets blown open.
A wrestler who was once defending all his opponent’s shots at length, suddenly, can no longer defend any of the same shots he so valiantly defended just a minute earlier.
The crowd which formed to see the marquee matchup between two elite wrestlers disperses disappointed, as they came to see a superior effort, not resignation.
Why is one wrestler now putting on a takedown clinic verse the other?
Did suddenly one wrestler lose all his talents?
Did suddenly one wrestler lose all his training?
Did suddenly one wrestler lose all his experience?
No, in the blink of an eye, one wrestler lost all his will.
The wrestler who quit let circumstances convince him that he could not win.
When a wrestler reaches this mental point, there may be time left on the clock, but the match is over.
There is no more try.
As try has been traded for resignation.
He is resigned to the fact that he will not win.
With try still left in the tank, he has predetermined his fate.
He is being let up and taken down at will.
It gets so bad that his opponent is attempting to let him up once more, only for the resigned wrestler to stay down and not turn and face him because he knows what is coming.
He is resigned to stay down, to not attempt.
His goal has changed from winning the match to having the match end.
The one wrestler has convinced himself that resigning is less painful than trying.
In every tournament, one can also find a match where one wrestler, no matter the circumstances, is unwilling to quit.
It usually goes like this.
A wrestler is facing an opponent in which he is overmatched.
Few people are watching the match.
The overmatched wrestler gets thrown to his back.
He fights off his back for the whole first period only to be immediately put to his back again in the 2nd period; to fight some more.
While on his back fighting for his survival,
he hears the few people watching the match whisper, “It’s over.”
He continues to fight anyway.
Every time the overmatched wrestler’s shoulder blades get near the mat, he somehow miraculously surges them, to stay alive, even though the likelihood of a comeback is remote.
That doesn’t matter to him.
What matters more to this over-matched wrestler is that he is forever unwilling to quit.
He is unwilling to surrender his will.
He is unwilling to listen to the wrong voices instructing him to take the path of least resistance, to resign and relax for just a second.
Which would end the match.
Instead, he continues to fight through the pain.
He is unwilling to be defeated for lack of try.
After spending two periods on his back,
the over-matched wrestler faces a third period.
He has the choice between top, bottom, and neutral.
He evaluates his options and realizes there is not one option where he foresees a favorable outcome.
The realization doesn’t faze him.
He chooses the top position.
He is immediately reversed and put on his back.
He has just fought off his back for the last four minutes and now faces two more grueling minutes having to do the same.
The rational thought would say it would be easier to ease up for a fraction of a second and allow his shoulder blades to graze the mat ever so slightly, for a fall.
It would all be over then.
No one would blame him; he was over-matched.
But there is something inside the over-matched wrestler that is unwilling to listen to rationale.
He is unwilling to listen to the voice which will lead him to defeat.
He survives the first minute of the third period,
his fifth minute on his back.
It took every ounce of energy he had, to survive.
Just to face more pain.
His chance of winning the match has gone from improbable to near impossible.
It would be very easy for him to end it all;
all he would have to do is collapse his shoulders, and the match would be over.
But something inside of him can’t.
Something inside of him is unwilling.
From his back, he glances up and sees two things;
a crowd is forming around his mat, and the clock says that he has another minute left to fight.
He is out of energy.
He is beyond believing he will win the match.
He feels his shoulders nearing the mat; they are as close to the mat as they have been all match.
He is determined to keep his shoulders above the mat.
Somehow, he reaches down and taps into a reservoir of strength he never knew existed.
He is unwilling to allow his hard work to go for naught.
The ever-increasing crowd takes notice of his effort and starts to root for him not to get pinned.
They start counting down the seconds left in the match.
10, 9, 8…
3, 2, 1,
A loud ovation erupts from the crowd.
The wrestler who has spent the last six minutes on his back untangles himself from his opponent and heads back to the circle.
The crowd is on their feet, applauding.
Not for the victor.
But for him.
For his effort.
For his refusal to allow circumstances to dictate his effort.
They realize they have just witnessed the essence of the sport.
The referee raises his opponent’s hand as he storms off the mat as if he has lost the match,
disgruntled because he didn’t get the pin.
The over-matched wrestler who fought off his back for six minutes is embraced by his teammates and his coaches.
They swarm him as if he had won the match.
Because he has.
His will made him fight.
His will made him survive.
His will made him unwilling.
Unwilling to give in.
Unwilling to take the path of least resistance.
Unwilling to be broken.
Unwilling to quit.
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