An Open Letter To Our Wrestlers

By: Ryan Luth

[Ryan, a 5th senior, will be headed back to school in a few weeks to finish his Bachelor’s Degree in English, and compete his final wrestling season. Among other wrestling accolades, Ryan is a 2x DIII All-American, 2x Centennial Conference Champion, 2x CT State Open Champion, and 2x New England Champion. Ryan also holds the CT state record for career victories with 202 high school victories.]

November 28, 2022

An Open Letter to Our Wrestlers

Dear Team Tugman:  

One day you will wake up and realize that this is your last season. Last season, last match, last practice, last bus ride with your team, and the last time you get to feel what it really means to wrestle. Whether you’re in elementary school, middle school, high school, or college, that day comes much faster than you expect. Ask one of the coaches in the room and they’ll tell you the same thing. I’ve been wrestling since I was five years old, and I woke up recently with a strong realization that this year will be my last official wrestling season. With that experience, I’d like take some time to share with you my thoughts and reflections on what it is about this sport that makes it worth all these years of work.

People observing our sport from the outside would often ask me what my favorite part of wrestling is. For a long time, I probably said something along the lines of, “Well, I guess winning.” For a while, I did think winning was my favorite part. When my hard work would pay off in a big way it felt great, and I constantly chased that feeling. I thought that was what I loved about wrestling, and if you asked me my goals every year, they would reflect that thought. I taped the same piece of lined paper to my wall that my brother CJ wrote on in high school that read in gold sharpie: STATE OPEN CHAMP. I would go on to add NEW ENGLAND CHAMP and ALL AMERICAN on my walls, too. But as I spent more and more time involved with this sport, I realized that even though I do love winning, there are so many other things about wrestling that I’ve loved my entire career, even if I didn’t realize it until later.

There’s something beautiful that comes out of the sacrifice and struggle wrestling requires. As we all know, wrestling is hard. If it’s easy, then you’re not doing it right. In order to be happy in this sport, you have to fall in love with the whole process, from training to competing, to that meal you have on the bus ride home with your teammates. Instead of approaching your training with an attitude of “getting it over with,” you should try to appreciate it and approach every day with a positive mindset.

Being a part of a wrestling team is an experience that most people will never understand. The struggle you and your teammates go through together builds some of the strongest relationships you will ever have, and the constant work that wrestling requires genuinely will prepare you for whatever challenges life gives you. Wrestling taught me how to budget time, push myself to my limits (and then farther), battle through nerves, bounce back after a loss, work through adversity, and approach life with a better attitude. Every lesson that you learn in this sport can be applied to other aspects of life. People often talk about how wrestling is a mindset, but I like to think that wrestling builds your mindset. Buy into what your coaches tell you, especially the coaches we have at our club. Everyone here wants to see you succeed, and if you follow the guidelines and advice that Coach Tugman and company provide to you, you will succeed.

Further, it’s important to realize that everybody measures success differently. Being honest with yourself is the first step in evaluating your work. For some of you, success is winning a state, regional, national, or international championship. For others, success might be having more wins than losses, making the starting lineup, or placing at your first tournament. Success could be showing up to practice every day with a positive attitude and being the best training partner that you can.

Success can be a lot of different things, but it is important to understand what your personal goals are so that you and your coaches can put the necessary steps in place to achieve them. Ultimately, though, everyone should have one common goal of giving 100% effort 100% of the time. A loss is only negative if you hold back and don’t try your hardest. If you give all you have, then there’s always a positive to take from the situation, and you can walk off the mat with your head high. Additionally, if you focus on being the best wrestler you can be, that in turn will help your team reach its highest potential. Wrestling is just as much a team sport as it is an individual sport. The second you forget how important your team is, you’ll start to lose touch on what it means to wrestle. Nobody can win at this sport alone.

Behind all of my accomplishments, there was (and still is) a team full of dedicated partners, coaches, administrators, and family and friends that all want the best for each other. I’ll never forget after we won our first Class M championship in high school, my teammate (who many of you know) Gino Esposito made a comment that seeing the team succeed felt better than winning his individual Class M title. Every person on that team got a Class M championship ring, starter or backup, because every person contributed. As you work your way up through this sport, try not to compare your success to others. Everybody starts at a different point, and everybody learns at a different speed. Focus on what you can do to get better and stay consistent.

Wrestling is one of those things that nobody understands unless they are immersed within its world. You can explain how scoring works, what headgear is, the differences between collegiate and international wrestling, or what it means to be in a weight class, but you can never explain how it feels to really be a wrestler. I’ve played football, baseball, soccer, competed in track events, and even tried and (no surprise here) failed at basketball. Nothing compares to wrestling. Appreciate the fact that you are lucky enough to call yourself a wrestler, and be proud of the work you put in.

As crazy as it might sound, one day you’re going to wake up wishing that you had a Saturday morning practice to attend. You’ll want to experience that weight cut one more time to re-discover how good a slice of pizza can taste. You will miss the Sunday recovery when your body hurts from wrestling seven matches in a weekend. And most of all, you will miss how it feels to have your hand raised in front of full bleachers. There’s no other feeling like it. Never take what you have for granted but keep pushing yourself for more. And most of all, fall in love with the process and enjoy it. You cannot escape how hard this sport is, but you can find a way to embrace it and let it build you into an outstanding person. If you can learn to both trust the process and love the process, then your options within this sport and in life are close to unlimited.