Excerpt from “6 Minutes Wrestling with Life”
February 12th, 2012
A year ago, Maverick’s main competition to win a Section XI Championship came from Hauppauge’s Nick Mauriello.
The two were scheduled to wrestle a few weeks before the postseason in a dual meet match between Eastport-South Manor and Hauppauge High School.
It was a highly anticipated match between the two juniors – the type of match one trains for with a little more focus, drive, and determination.
The match was going be a preview of the upcoming postseason.
The day arrived.
As is the case with most featured matches, it would be the last match of the day.
As each of the preceding fourteen matches came to a close, the anticipation of Mauriello vs. Passaro grew to a crescendo.
Finally, it was time to wrestle.
The match never took place.
At the time, we shook it off as the usual strategy most coaches have – not wanting their wrestler to meet their primary opponent so close to the Sectional Tournament.
A few days later, rumors started to leak that Nick might be hurt. Something about Nick’s knee, then his neck, circulated throughout the tight-knit Long Island wrestling community.
The rumors proved to be wrong.
It was more than that.
Nick had contracted MRSA.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus, or MRSA, is a bacterial infection that can be passed through contact sports like wrestling.
MRSA is a skin infection that enters the bloodstream via an open cut, and it can be life-threatening.
A week ago, while competing in a tournament, Nick had an open cut on his knee, and it is thought it was where and when the infection entered his body.
Whenever, and wherever he contracted it is unimportant; as the MRSA quickly and insidiously circulated through Nick’s bloodstream.
First, it was an inflamed knee, then a stiff neck, and then within days, Nick found himself at Stony Brook University Hospital on life support.
For nineteen days, Nick stared death in the face.
The only good part about MRSA picking a fight with Nick is that Nick is a wrestler.
Wrestlers know how to fight.
Wrestlers know how to win.
Thankfully, Nick fought and won the greatest battle of his life.
He was happy and lucky to be alive.
Four months later Nick started training again.
He started to compete again.
He started to pursue winning a Section XI Championship again.
This time, instead of being Nick’s competition, Maverick became his workout partner.
A great workout partner knows when to push, and just as importantly, knows when to ease up a little so progress can be made, confidence can be built, and new levels can be achieved.
For four months Nick and Maverick trained together to prepare to win a Section XI Championship in Suffolk County, NY at 126 & 132 pounds respectively.
On February 12th, 2009 Maverick and Nick’s partnership paid off. They both won a Section XI Championship, a championship that would earn each of them the right to compete for their ultimate goal, a New York State Title.
Maybe it was that in the back of their minds last year, they each knew they were going to be pushed by a great competitor, one for whom they needed to be at their best to face and conquer.
Maybe that future inevitable clash drove them both to prepare to their fullest capabilities.
Maybe it was that no great competitor wants to see their elite competition ever get hurt or sick instead of being able to compete against them.
Maybe it was the chilling series of events that put Nick on life support in a medically induced coma.
Maybe it was Maverick’s first-hand knowledge of what someone in a medically induced coma actually is going through.
Maybe they both knew what it meant to drive down Nichols Road heading toward Stony Brook University, and to make a right hand turn into the hospital instead of a left hand turn into the Sports Complex where the Section XI Tournament is held each year.
Maybe it was realizing when you prioritize things in life; wrestling is not that important.
Maybe they knew when you really prioritize things in life; wrestling is extremely important.
Maybe they knew how much stress a medical illness can have on a family.
Maybe they knew how a medical illness could bring a family closer together.
Maybe it was hearing that a strong growing young man who once weighed one hundred and forty pounds dwindled down to one hundred and twelve pounds due to his illness.
Maybe it was the first-hand knowledge Maverick had of what that weight loss looks like on someone you love.
Maybe it was the hope of the miracle recovery.
Maybe it was knowing how much focus and desire are necessary to be able to take life’s best cheap shot and keep moving forward.
Maybe it was having the opportunity of being Nick’s workout partner in the offseason and seeing the recovery process take shape first hand, little by little, day by day.
Maybe it was a subconsciously communicated pact that allowed Maverick to be part of Nick’s recovery process, in exchange for the ability to be able to believe in the “medically impossible.”
Maybe it was all of this.
Maybe it was none of this.
Whatever it was – it is undeniable.
There has been a lifetime bond that has been formed between Maverick and Nick.
After winning the Section XI Title tonight, Maverick chose without hesitation to find Nick Mauriello, who was warming up, ready to take the mat for his own Suffolk County title, and share with him the one thing that is most sacred to a wrestler – the “First Celebration Hug.”
Maybe, just maybe, without knowing it, Nick helped Maverick more than he will ever know.