Another throwback to my old blog from college. I think the lesson is still very applicable, especially in the MMA world where competitors often try to protect their record by trying to avoid superior opponents. But if you look at the most respected fighters, they are willing to fight anyone; they love the challenge.
There was a day when it was noble to die on the field of battle, clutching your sword until your last breath sputtered out. In ancient Norse mythology, only those who died bravely in battle were sent to an afterlife in Valhalla. This was the warrior’s ideal end—not a thing to run from, but to seek.
At tournaments, often you hear, “I hope I don’t have to wrestle so-and-so…he’s a state champ.” There is nothing wrong with the fear of losing, as it is something that gives nightmares to even the best wrestlers. But to allow your fear of losing to overshadow your competitive drive is worse than losing. It is cowardice.
The competitor who fears competition runs from the inevitable. Just as the warrior believes that death is inescapable and it is better to end gloriously, losing is a given. There will always be someone, someday, who will beat you. The sooner you get over that the better. The true competitor doesn’t run from this, but tries to find his or her own Valhalla.
I have never had an undefeated season, and I don’t plan on it. Every year, I have had someone challenge me, push me, and beat me. And I have come out better because of it. Whether it’s up a weight class or at a national tournament, there is always a way to lose. It’s better to go down swinging against a good opponent than to breeze through a mediocre one.
This doesn’t just apply to big matches and screaming fans. The easiest and most painless way to do this is in the wrestling room, every day. Look around, find the best guy, and go catch a beating. You will be better for it.