When Losing Becomes the Greatest Form of CompassionPosted: Updated:
PROSSER, Wash - The reason why we here at KNDO/KNDU became journalists is first and foremost to tell people's stories. However, sometimes the story is best told by people just like you. We received an email from a viewer telling a very compelling and compassionate story. We wish we could have shown you the event, but this coach's words convey every bit of sentiment we could ever hope to express. Enjoy!
My name is Michael Denny and I am the middle school wrestling coach at Housel Middle School. Last night (January 22nd) we hosted teams from Selah and Ellensburg in a three way meet. There were 66 matches during the course of the evening, but I wanted to write you to share our feelings about one match in particular.
Housel Middle School coaches contacted the coaches from Morgan Middle School to try and set up an "unorthodox" match for one of our wrestlers. You see, we have an eighth grade
student/athlete who has cognitive and physical disabilities who has turned out for wrestling this season. His parents only wanted him to take part in wrestling as a "manager" and maybe get some time on the mat during practice to feel more like he is part of the team and get a chance to participate in a sport like his older brothers.
Our wrestler has been practicing each day for the past two weeks and was looking forward to
a match though we were very skeptical about the possibility or wrestling someone from another team. We knew he would not be able to stand up to the physical rigors of an actual wrestling match so we asked coach Graf if there was anybody on his team who could wrestle our guy and assure us of two things: 1. we needed our wrestler to be safe, 2. we didn't want the match to be a mockery or embarrassment for either wrestler or the schools they represent.
Coach Graf contacted one of the Morgan Middle School wrestlers, Connor Sherwood, and asked if he would be willing to participate in a match. He asked Connor if he would be willing to assure us of our wrestler's safety and dignity. We assured Connor that he would definitely win the
match, but that we wanted our wrestler to have a chance to wrestle in a "real" match. Connor thought about the situation and indicated he was willing to participate in the match. We set the match to take place at the end of the night after all other wrestling had finished.
Coach Graf approached the Housel Middle School coaching staff toward the middle of the second round and asked if we were ready to wrestle the special match because he wanted to make sure the crowd did not leave before they wrestled. The match started off how I expected with Conner taking it nice and slow with our wrestler. They traded control back and forth and Connor allowed our wrestler to work his moves and use moves that occur in typical matches.
All of the coaches, wrestlers, parents, fans and officials knew what was happening and we were enjoying the moment, though we knew it would not last much longer. Wrestlers from Housel Middle School began lining the mat and chanting the name of our wrestler. Wrestlers and coaches from all three teams were watching from their seats and the edge of the mat. Fans in the crowd were all watching, and eventually standing up the see how the match unfolded.
As time started to run out we expected Conner to begin to work toward the win, but it
became clear that something very special was about to take place! Connor was keeping the match close, but our wrestler began to build a lead as the final seconds of the third round came to an end. Connor kept a close eye on the clock and made sure our wrestler finished the match with a 9 to 8 victory!
I have been involved in Wrestling for nearly 20 years as a wrestler, official and a coach. I can honestly say I have never observed this kind of maturity and selflessness from a wrestler Connor's age, or any age for that matter. In one match, Connor was able to give our wrestler, his parents, our school and our community something to have and cherish for the rest of our lives. There were few, if any, dry eyes in the gym.
As I walked through the door this morning the news of the match quickly spread through the office and the teachers lounge and the majority of responses were a teary eye and an emphatic "WOW". As a matter of fact, I have pulled the blinds and shut the door just to write this letter because it is still such a moving experience and memory.
It seems in today's society we teach our younger generation to "go for the win", "don't give up", "winning is the most important thing", "don't give an inch", but last night we saw what is good about school athletics and the promise of tomorrow's leaders. Connor could have easily taken our wrestler down, pinned him quickly and painlessly, and it would have been recorded as just another match. Instead he and the coaching staff made a decision that will forever change everyone who watched that match last night.
I commend Coach Graf for his continued leadership and development of these fine young men, but I most importantly want to thank and pay tribute to Connor for his thoughtful, caring, and compassionate match!
This is the kind of story I as a coach have always hoped to share with others, this is the type of match that gives us so much hope for the younger generation, and this is the match that shows why wrestling is the oldest and greatest sport.