WIN ARTICLE #133 It Just Plain Stinks!

03/03/2018

It Just Plain Stinks!
By: Ben Peterson
#133

Our 2017 National Teams have had some significant success. And I pray they and our future teams will be driven to bring honor to America as well as themselves and see repeated success. The following story is a reminder of an element that is hard to keep in the forefront of our thoughts but is essential.

In 1960 three American freestyle wrestlers earned gold medals in Rome, Italy. Their success was significant. Growing up in northern Wisconsin, my family had yet to be introduced to the sport of wrestling. That fall my older brother Tom would take up the sport as a freshman in High School. During the hot summer months of 1960, I am sure little was said about the Olympics. We had no TV. Dad busy with harvest and my older brother Phil may have read about the Olympics in the newspaper, but they did not gain my attention. I was 10. My free time was spent playing games, building forts and experiencing walks in the many nearby woods, which were full of raspberries, blackberries, ponds, and trees to climb.

I was the next American wrestler to win an Olympic gold medal. Often I ask people, “What do you think of that?” When they think of my progress from ignorance to earning an Olympic gold medal, their reply includes words like “amazing,” “awesome,” or “cool!” Others think of the process and say, “determination,” “dedication,” or “commitment.” A few will say “that is a long time” as they consider that I could not have been ready at age 14 or 18. And could I even have obtained it at age 22? No American medalists had been that young, but no one told me that for years. I am very happy that Henry Cejudo won gold at age 21 and Kyle Snyder has won Olympic gold at age 20. By the time I was told I held that record I wanted to lose it.

None of the above words could drive me to do all that was necessary to prepare for the Olympics accept “that is a long time.” When I attended my first World Team Camp the summer before my junior year in college, I was introduced to new words that described the thinking of a few coaches and a few wrestlers regarding 12 years and 2 Olympics of failing to win even one gold. “It just plain stinks” may not have been the exact words spoken, but that is what I heard.

Bill Farrell was the coach of the 1970 World Team going to Edmonton, Canada. The training camp was in Superior, Wisconsin, just 70 miles from my home. How convenient for me. That opportunity was key to my college and international success. Coach Farrell was slated to be the coach through the Munich Olympics in 2 years. His attitude was clear. We had been embarrassing ourselves as a sport and were failing to represent the USA in an honorable manner.

Some wrestlers agreed with Coach Farrell and carried the thought to practice each day. They were training the year round and had set their jaw to do what was needed to represent us in a more successful fashion. The next summer the battle between the long-standing AAU and the newly formed US Wrestling Federation was at the point that the Federation gained the right to prepare and send the team to the Pan American Games and to Sofia, Bulgaria, for the World Championships. Doug Blubaugh was the head coach and one of his chosen assistants was Shelby Wilson. Later I would meet Terry McCann in Chicago because of my nearness to it. These were the 3 men who won in Rome when I was 10. The more I got to know each of them, the more I saw they agreed with the thought that American wrestling was not continuing to represent the USA very well. Their attitude was humble, yet confident. We all knew they had been through something that had left a mark on them. The experiences in preparation, competition, and life with gold showed me they were real people yet men of distinction.

All of the wrestlers worked hard. Representing the US is a great honor. All wrestlers know that. But not all men are willing to let the embarrassment get under their skin and work to improve every aspect of their game. Sure, they all want to make the team. Sure they want to win medals, especially gold. But I saw a difference between those with a discontentment and those

that could be satisfied with something less than gold medals. I had seen this attitude with high school teammates and with college teammates. Though I am not certain these words were used, I know the meaning was there and it came with great intensity, “It just plain stinks! America and American wrestling is being embarrassed and we must make changes and do all we can to win again.”

Regularly, Coach Farrell and Coach Blubaugh got us together and reminded us of the reality of our past and the urgency to change our future. There were a lot of stories regarding slanted officiating. After all, a major number of the strongest wrestling countries were in the Communist block. Of course they wanted their wrestlers to win. So when they could, they slanted the bracketing, the scoring, and the calls in their favor. Our coaches knew these stories and told them as well as the seasoned wrestlers.

Bill Farrell changed our mindset. He and all his assistants over-coached us to avoid being close enough for an official to steal a score from us. If our practice partners got behind us, we were taken down. No need for our partner to bring us to the mat. No matter how much we told them a knee must be forced to the mat to secure the control point, they still scolded us for giving up control. And when we got behind our partner, the opposite was stated. They urged us to keep securing the control until our opponent was flat on his belly and chest driven into the mat. It was a simple step but a wise tactic. A number of benefits came from this experience. The least not being that I didn’t complain about the officiating. In fact, they awarded control and turn points earlier than I expected.

My point is that the attitude expressed to us was a deep soul level determination. We were ready to work on a new plane once we bought into the fact that, “It just plain stinks!” I had grasped this kind of attitude while wrestling for Iowa State University. Many people would have been content to be second in the nation, but after finishing that as juniors, Carl Adams and I worked with our teammates to assure we did the extras to make sure we won the National Championship as seniors. That was extremely rewarding. But we were now at a whole new level with the US Team.

Once I grasped that spirit, it was so much easier to work extra. I needed to grab the coattails of our older and more experienced wrestlers and say, “I don’t know how to prepare, show me.” Together with the thought, “It just plain stinks”, we went to new heights in Munich. Because of the bracketing in Munich I was the first wrestler to secure Olympic gold for America. Dan Gable won gold a few hours later and Wayne Wells won gold an hour after that. Plus my brother John and Rick Sanders won silvers. Chris Taylor earned bronze at heavyweight. We had made huge strides so there was definite smiling on our side of the mat. But, across the mat the Soviets had 5 golds. I have never gotten over that.

Our US National Teams and all fans can benefit from this attitude going forward from 2017. My prayer and my urge is that coaches, wrestlers, parents and fans let this thought sink deeply into their being, “It stinks that we don’t win more Gold.”

Lets each do the hard, difficult and even impossible tasks needed to accomplish what is right, best and good. In all aspects of life, ”It stinks” when we fail to bring honor and victory to those we represent and those we care deeply about.

Find other articles and the book called “ROAD TO GOLD” by Ben at: www.campofchamps.org Today Ben & John Peterson run Camp of Champs Wrestling Camps. Contact them at: PO Box 222 Watertown, WI 53094 920-918-0542 ben@campofchamps.org

 
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