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Ramblings on the College Wrestling Season
Fall turned suddenly into winter. It fell right before wrestling season began, right around Halloween. And with it you showed up to practice 10 minutes early in order to thaw out from the cold, and afterwards you had to throw on layer after layer to brace yourself against it, even though you were still sweating from all of the hard work.
Outside the snow began to coat and stick, and the world became one color as if to leave you less distractions. You had to learn how to not leave the house and stop going on walks to the lakefront, and how to watch movies again and again and rest, and how easy it is to sleep warm under thick, heavy blankets when the snow has piled up against your window and is softly beating against the pane.
The Northwestern University practice room was hidden in the basement of Anderson Hall with its administrative offices and coaching offices and academic tutoring and advising. This building crowded with athletes and all the people you knew by face if not name. Always clean, always warm, welcoming, ready for you if you were ready. Wanting of your love and sacrifice.
Those mornings alone when you went in for those secret workouts—that was the best kind of work that stayed deep inside and kept you strong throughout the season and towards the end when things got rough and your body started to break down and you only thought about wrestling. Those were your favorite workouts, the ones you always needed.
All the distractions of the town whited-out so you could focus. The wind was fierce, loud, beating against you always now; more snow, more cover, and the room always waiting to relieve you of that chill.
The room was well-heated, thick with mats on the floor and walls, and held a couch and a TV and cardio bikes—but it was not overdone in its design. Not so nice that it would forget its purpose and then you would forget it, too.
It was two flights down to the basement, and you knew that when you stepped down there that you were where you were supposed to be—you belonged to this room, this space, and it belonged to you. You were yourself in it, a part of it. And once practice began you could be free to work and safe to achieve or fail trying as long as you tried your hardest and in your own form.
And near the end of season you didn’t need to count the days because you could feel it: the snow lifting, the sun lighting your step, the way your body responded to the lessening work-load, and that wildness brought out from deep with the hints of Spring.
You felt that wildness as you began to run outside again, and the world became alive and people were out; you kept that feeling at bay or let it out in little surges for another few weeks, until NCAAs, until you really needed it.
The only thing anyone remembers is how you finish. You can’t forget that. And you felt those sun rays, and your skin was beginning to tan and you knew the only thing remembered would be the next few weeks, and you were ready.