Finding The Switch : Next Level Wrestling

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The good news is that everyone has the ability to achieve personal and competitive greatness. The bad news is is that very few people actually achieve it. Why is that?

The purpose of my talk today is to talk to you about why and how. How to crack the code so that you can achieve your personal greatness and competitive greatness. So let's start with the why. Why did two wrestlers of equal ability, equal training, equal,coaching, equal resources..., why does one follow a path to go on to becoming a decent College wrestler, and another diverge on a completely different path to become a champion and to achieve their personal greatness?

Little things make a huge difference in this sport and in life, and it's that minute difference that we're going to talk about today. Now, the how do you crack the code to achieve your personal greatness. Well I can tell you there's a switch inside your brain. Trust me I know... I'm a brain surgeon okay. There really is and if you can tap into that switch... it's not a clap on clap off switch. It's a physical switch that you need to flip on. If you can flip that switch on you can achieve your personal and competitive greatness. Coach Gable has always said it's not the greatest or the strongest or the most talented wrestler that becomes a champion. It's the person that believed they could achieve.

So we want to talk about thinking, about achieving, going on to thinking of something that you never thought was possible in your life to achieve. That's the difference the difference between achievers..., decent College wrestlers and super Achievers is that minute difference. Flip that switch on.

I came here to share with you a story because I was in your shoes exactly your shoes 24 years ago today. February 1988 I was a medical school bound senior at William & Mary and I had one last month of my wrestling career. You guys are facing that same tournament..., that same path. You're facing the EIWAs,  the national championships in the next four weeks.

Here's the end of my story..., my EIWA cup and I can tell you this is the proudest achievement in my wrestling career. This sits on my desk at home and I remember this day for the rest of my life. I'll remember it it was a great day in my life, but on February 14th chances of me winning this cup were pretty slim. I was at the precipice of my wrestling career. I was at a critical juncture and that juncture was whether I was going to go on to be a decent College wrestler or whether I was going to become a champion as I said. Little things make a big difference in life and in this sport. Think about the difference between 211 degree water and 212 degree water. What's 211 degree water? It's just really hot water right? 212 degree water..., that one degree... Cooks eggs, Powers engines, Powers, locomotives across the country.

I's that one degree that super Achievers have..., that one little extra thing and it comes with believing really and truly believing that you can achieve. Let's go back to February 1988. I was entering my senior EIWA championships. My freshman year - lost in the first round. Sophomore year injured - didn't compete. Junior year lost in the first round again. Wrestled back for fifth didn't go to Nationals, so I was facing the last chance to make my mark in wrestling. I was wrestling pretty well but I wasn't feeling right. I couldn't put my finger on it. I was wrestling well. I was having good performances on the mat, but I just couldn't put my finger on it. I was driving around. I was listening to this old Robbie Robertson song called The Showdown at Big Sky, and I couldn't sleep. I really wasn't even eating. I wasn't concentrating in my classes and all I could think about was the EIWAs. My last chance.

So I went to my coach Billy Pincus. Billy was a psychologist as well as a wrestling coach. I sat down and had a really long talk with him. We talked about everything..., what was going on..., what was going on in my head..., what I was eating..., everything. After about an hour he stood up. He looked me in the eyes and he said,

"Mark, you're wrestling with your demons. You have got to find a way to win. Find your way to win this match."
It wasn't a lot to go on.  I really didn't know where where to go from here, but I knew I couldn't stay where I was. I was either going to fail miserably or I was going to succeed miraculously. Around about that time I went out for a routine run. We had a match that day. I had to shed a couple of pounds..., nothing big. It wasn't an important match but I had to lose some weight. That run was the hardest, the worst, and the best run of my life. That run put me on the precipice between being a decent College wrestler and being an EIWA champion. I started out...,  had some sweats on..., wool and hat gloves...,  just gonna drop a couple pounds...,  a three and a half mile run from William and Mary Hall out to the Governor's Palace in Colonial Williamsburg and back.

Piece of cake done a 100, probably 500 times, and as I started out everything was going smoothly. About a half a mile into the run I got the worst cramps in my legs I'd ever had. Both calves just crushing. Started trying to limp, trying to stretch it out...  keep moving, keep moving, but all of a sudden I started thinking, "oh man I don't know if I can finish this. This is really hurting me."

Kept going, kept running a little bit farther... got that stitch in my side... a little knife you guys have all had it right? Every time you take a breath you can't take a breath in. Oh my god! Oh man! Worse and worse...,keep trying to run through it. Keep trying to move, keep trying to get going. Then I started feeling like I was going to get sick. Going to throw up. I'm getting the flu or something...  I mean I didn't know what was going on. I was just having this visceral body meltdown and I started thinking about backing off, started thinking about stopping, walking back to William Mary Hall but some little voice in my head said if you stop this run, you lose EIWAs. You finish it and you'll win it.

You walk and you lose. Totally irrational voice. I'm an intelligent guy. I'm a college student. I could be coming down with the flu. I should just walk. I may injure myself. Whatever I didn't care what it was... it was this voice that said

"If you stop, you are losing the EIWAs. If you finish you will win the EIWAs. Your choice, make it now."


I made it to the top of the steps and on the top of the steps of William & Mary Hall. I didn't decide, I resolved I was winning EIWAs.  I was going to be the 1988 142 pound EIWA champion. No Doubt. Absolute belief.

So as you start your workout today and as you plan for the next two to four weeks and the EIWAs and Nationals I want to leave you guys with a couple of questions.

What do you need to do to finish your run? What do you need to do to cast off your doubts and your demons? What do you need to do to earn your right to a 2012 EIWA Championship? What do you need to do to go from being a decent College wrestler to being a champion? And lastly, what do you need to do to win your cup?
Thank you.

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