It has been a hard week for the Lindsey Wilson Wrestling team, both on and off the mat. We spent nearly a week away from home in Iowa competing against Grandview University and Ellsworth Community College, losing to both teams. While it was a great opportunity to get used to being outside of our comfort zones, we did not produce the results we were hoping for, and it is hard to call the trip a success.
Grandview was the #3 ranked team in the NAIA going into our dual, and I think they intimidated us right from the start. We wrestled on our heels while they wrestled on their toes. They came to scrap and we backed down. They are an excellent team, don’t get me wrong, but we gave them far too much respect. Instead, we should have made them earn our respect. We did not do this, and the dual score reflects that. Of course, there are some guys on the team who stood toe to toe with their respective opponents, but we need a collective effort when facing a team with as much talent as Grandview. It was simply not enough.
We then had an opportunity to respond against Ellsworth with some intensity and some tenacity. Again, though, we came out flat. We did not necessarily give them more respect than they deserved like we did against Grandview, but we did not attack like we should have. I’m not sure if we were tired from training, if we missed our beds at home, or if there was some extraneous factor that I do not know about. Whatever the reason, we did not perform. Our collective attitude was down in the doldrums, and it was almost like we did not want to wrestle.
Once this attitude takes hold it has the potential to spread like wildfire. As coaches, we cannot teach a wrestler to want to win. That desire has to be intrinsic; it has to come from within. We can, however, try to keep spirits up to prevent the poor attitude we saw against Ellsworth from catching on. If we lose our desire as a team at this point it would be almost impossible to regain it before the national tournament. Negative attitudes tend to feed on themselves, growing bigger and worse with each setback.
We arrived back on campus on Saturday, and that night our team suffered one of the most heartbreaking setbacks a team, or an individual, can face. We lost a beloved teammate and friend in Rashaun Graham. It is tragic when a young person loses their life, and even more so when that young person is such a shining example of what it means to be a good person. No one who met Rashaun will ever forget the way that he laughed (giggled is probably more accurate), or his infectious good mood, or how he brightened the room with his humor. You could not look at him without smiling because that is just the kind of kid that he was. I never heard Rashaun speak an ill word about anyone or anything, which is an extremely rare quality. Instead, he showed up to practice ready to work and ready to have fun each and every day. He was a kid who was truly happy to be alive, and we can all learn from that. There is no reason NOT to be happy. You’re alive and well, aren’t you? Rashaun loved life, and I think we would be doing him a disservice if we did not at least attempt to approach each and every day with the zeal and zest that were both so abundant in our lost friend. Wherever he is and whatever he is doing, I can assure you he is doing it with the biggest and cheesiest of smiles you can imagine.
It is difficult beyond words to describe how tragic the loss of Rashaun is to everyone who knew him. But life, as it is prone to do, moves on. It has to. If we try to resist, it will move on without us, guaranteed. I am not saying that we need to close up our hearts and press on, forgetting how Rashaun’s life touched our own. Instead, we need to respond in a manner that helps us move forward. Let us learn the lesson of happiness from Rashaun, among other things. Let us remember how he made us feel when he walked into our offices, or dorm rooms, or classrooms, and let us continue that in his name. Let us never take advantage of our time here with friends or family, because that time is far too short. Today may be the only day that we have to accomplish what we want to accomplish. Take advantage of that opportunity, as we may not get another.
Like any setback, whether it is a loss to a tough opponent or the loss of a dear friend, it is up to us to respond. How we choose to respond is up to us. We each have the power and the ability to grow from this tragic setback. We have to decide to do so, if not for ourselves, then for Rashaun. I think we all know that he would want us to keep smiling. We will test our ability to handle this adversity on Tuesday, when Campbellsville comes to town. We plan to honor Rashaun with a reading and a moment of silence prior to the dual that begins at 7:00 CST.