WIN Article #121 What a Summer of Wrestling!


What a Summer of wrestling!
By Ben Peterson #121

Each summer I personally enjoy several wrestling events where a lot of young men are able to strengthen their understanding of our game. This summer for 9 weeks it was my privilege to conduct Camp of Champs overnight camps, speak and teach at various commuter camps and attend top wrestling tournaments.

I often say the more we know and experience wrestling the more we will like and then love it. I saw a lot of wrestlers learning and expanding their interest and love for wrestling. 1,900 wrestlers heard some of my stories. They were encouraged to keep learning and enjoying it all.

Fargo was one of the major tournaments for me. Watching our best young high school wrestlers, I urged several to learn the positions of freestyle and Greco, and the difference between the Olympic styles and folkstyle.

American folkstyle is all about controlling your opponent. Before you will earn any points in folkstyle you must show control of your opponent. We don’t get back points no matter how often we tilt his back unless we have control first!

But this is not true in freestyle and Greco. Just exposing the shoulders at a 90 degree angle will get you freestyle points. Folkstyle needs: 1) control, 2) 45 degree angle, and 3) 2-second count. Learning to control just enough to tilt instead of full control for points was huge for me. The majority of Fargo wrestlers have not learned this. The finalists were better at understanding this and won by fall or technical fall several times. My recommendation to wrestlers headed for Fargo and any Olympic style meet is to study more tilts and not just more takedowns. They must learn to tilt, not just control and to learn to protect their shoulders from easy tilts. Coaches, let’s keep helping our young wrestlers to learn this early in their career. It will help their folkstyle a lot by opening up many new and exciting scoring options and protecting their backs.

Then there were The Olympics! Though we Americans are disappointed that more medals were not secured, we can be happy, proud, and excited for those who did medal for us.

Helen Maroulis defeated the Japanese 3x gold-medalist legend at her weight, and Kyle Snyder is now the youngest USA Gold Medal Wrestler at 20. After holding that “youngest” distinction until Henry Cejudo won, I was cheering for Kyle to win more than ever. I can’t say being the youngest meant a lot to me; I just wanted more Americans to win gold medals! I gladly relinquished that title to Henry and I hope he is glad for Kyle also.

J’Den Cox won bronze at the young age of 21. May these competitors carry these honors remembering the great privilege it is to represent the USA in the Olympics. If they remember, they will keep finding the medals to be like a gift that keeps on giving. And they will want to keep saying thank you. And I pray they continue working for more World and Olympic Championships.

During the Olympics an interesting and thought-provoking question was asked of me several times: “Why does the IRS tax the US Olympic Champions on their medal? Are they not representing the US? Do they not sacrifice greatly to represent us?” This questioning is often made with emotion and even disgust that the US government would do such a thing.

First, it should be clarified that the medal and its value is not the issue. The US Olympic Committee gives each medal winner a cash award. Then many sport organizations, like USAWrestling, also gives a cash award to each medal winner. These cash awards are worth many thousands of dollars. It is these cash awards that are being taxed.

Similarly, an employee may receive a trophy or a plaque without being taxed, but a Christmas bonus, dividend or commission is taxed. The same is true with Olympians. They receive monthly stipends all year as the #1, #2 or #3 wrestler in their weight to keep training. Plus they may receive travel expenses to attend training camps and tournaments where they can win honorariums. They setup business budgets and write off their expenses just like any other business or employee.

So, should we exempt the Olympic medalists from taxing their earnings because they represent the USA! Well, so do all government employees. If we exempt Olympians from taxes then we must explain why many others should not also be exempted.

Many say they sacrifice so much of their own time and money. This is true, they do. But so do our military and many others. Olympians don’t risk their lives like our soldiers do in war zones. I fought very hard to represent the USA behind the Iron Curtain. But I didn’t feel my life was at risk. Serving in a war zone is different than wrestling in the Olympics or any other venue.

America is the land of opportunity, the land where we can work to represent and compete for the USA. And when we win, others can honor us and give to us if they wish, but it will be a salary and therefore taxable. We are blessed greatly in America. The honor and opportunities that are now given to Helen, Kyle and J’Den will go with them throughout their lives. I remember telling my dad of a nice cash honorarium I received for teaching a camp session soon after my Olympics and having him remind me to record it on my taxes. That was a huge lesson to me.

Some might suggest I am bitter that no cash awards were given when I won my gold. Well, I have thought of that and have been tempted to be jealous. But how can I when I often say, “I am the most blessed man to ever step on a wrestling mat.” The people God placed in my path guided and prepared me for Olympic success and more. And the honor of that success has never ended.

This is why I put “Proverbs 22:1” under most every autograph I give. “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,” - the title and honor that comes with “Olympian”, “Olympic Medalist” or “Olympic Champion” are huge. There is great value in a solid name and reputation. Proverbs 22:1 also says “Loving favor rather than silver and gold.” Loving favor and respect of others is better than even a gold or silver medal. And the loving favor of God is the most valuable.

Every one of our Olympians now has a gift to carry all their lives. The few dollars they received is just a bonus, no matter what the cash award. They are Olympians and we will honor them. And if they use that honor in honorable ways, their sacrifice will keep on giving back to them. Our swimmers showed us how quickly we can harm our reputation, so I pray for wisdom for all our Olympians, but especially our medalists.

America is a great land of privilege and opportunity, but also of responsibility. Therefore, 44 years later, I keep saying thank you to God and America. And in the process seek to inspire others to reach heights they never thought possible. And thank you Olympians for inspiring all of us again!

Asics The Competitor USA Wrestling
USA Wrestling
National Wrestling Hall of Fame
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