Heart of a Lion – Chapter 1: My Call To Wrestling
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as if working for the Lord.
– Colossians 3:23
“Is this where the wrestlers meet?” I hesitantly asked another student approaching the gym after school on the first day of wrestling practice.
“Yes,” he replied, sizing me up, no doubt wondering why a kid like me, in a wheelchair, would be asking such a question. As I rolled into the gym the atmosphere was eerily quiet – like everyone there knew what was coming next but me. I expected a rowdier bunch and their serious looks increased my anxiousness more than ever.
The head coach, Coach Toeupu Liu, approached the silent group and no one stirred. I could feel the uneasiness cover them like a fog. His eyes scanned the group, no doubt looking for the new faces as well as those returning from last year’s team.
He began to speak in a serious tone about the rigors of wrestling and announced it is a very tough sport that’s not meant for everyone. He went on to explain how we would be pushed to our limits both physically and mentally. The first week would be a test to see who could cut it which he punctuated by announcing that half of the group would most likely be gone by the end of the week.
I wondered whether his comment improved or hurt my chances of making the team. But suddenly, the reality of my new adventure hit me like a ton of bricks and I began to question my decision to sign up for the wrestling team at all. I squirmed nervously in my chair.
This wasn’t what I had expected, but I didn’t have anything to compare it to. I thought it would just be a bunch of jocks yukking it up and getting on with practice. I had never been on any organized team, so I didn’t know what to expect from the coaches, either.
Yet here I was, a kid in a wheelchair with cerebral palsy who had little use of his legs, and the challenge of a very weak right arm, being told that half of us wouldn’t make it past the first week. What was I thinking when I signed up? Who would do such a thing? Had I bitten off more than I could chew? Sometimes you just have to let life come to you. At the same time, I couldn’t know then how wrestling would come to change my life forever.