To: The Class of 2012

Posted: June 27, 2012 in Uncategorized


Seeing you guys graduate Wednesday was bittersweet.  I think I say that every year, but it never really ceases to be true, and it is especially the case with your class.  You guys rocked the house, and will be greatly missed.  I really hope that most of you stick around and coach, or that once you graduate from college you come back to coach, because the room will feel weird without you.  At the very least, stay engaged as alums, because you are loved by many in this program, and you always will be family to us.  A cliche’, yes, but no less true.

Russell: graduated with, like, a 20.86 GPA or something like that.

Ok: parting words….ahhh, geez.  I’ve been sitting here the past half hour with writer’s block.  The problem is that I’m trying to sound profound and deep, but pretty much everything that follows is unremarkable in the extreme and will probably sound like every other message or speech you get from well meaning folks this time of year.  I’m beginning to think that every graduation speech for the past 20 years or so has been ghostwritten by the same guy.  So let me stop trying and just lay it out:

First, as mentioned, you are loved.  There are countless adults in your lives that care for your well being deeply and have sacrificed an awful lot for your good.  You are not self-made; you have had many, many hands to guide you through the years.  It is easy to take that for granted, and easier still to start thinking those helping hands are fists when things don’t go your way…don’t.

Second, speaking of when things don’t go your way: that will happen….frequently.  Expect it, and no that’s not pessimism speaking.  It’s ok.  Really.  This too shall pass.  Life will go on.  Most things that fall under this category (*most* things) are light and momentary troubles, and somewhere in there there’s a jewel for you if you can find it.  Usually, this jewel has nothing to do with material things or helping you gain future success, but everything to do with building your character as a man.  When those tough times come, remember the lessons you’ve learned on the mat, for they will be of immense help.  Gosh, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve lost this perspective…well, you can finish that cliche’ out for me.

Third, don’t mess around.  Focus!  Prepare for marriage, prepare for fatherhood, prepare for a career.  Don’t waste your time by thinking “well, maybe one day, but that’s way off.  Right now I just wanna have fun.”  That is a mistake my generation has made and it’s proving to be costly.  For now, spend your time preparing for those things, for most likely, one day they will come, and there is no “good husband,” or “good father” or “good employee” switch that you can flip when you are ready.  It’s just like wrestling, you see.  You all know that if you are lousy in practice, you’ll be lousy in competition.  Well, if you waste your time on “the scene,” video games, partying, and a delayed adulthood, you’ll be a lousy employee/husband/father, etc when the time comes, and boy you don’t want that.  That’ll hurt more than any loss you experienced on the mat by a mile.  By then you won’t have a choice.  Life is a habit.  Plus, if its fun you’re after, those things will be more fun if you prepare for them now than if  you don’t.

Fourth, for heaven’s sake, look forward to those things!  That’s another hangup my generation (and others) has, and it, too, is not doing us any good.  It is popular these days to run from career, marriage, and family, and view those things as the “end” of our fun time or the “end” of our life, when in reality, that’s when life really gets going.  Those things are hard, sure, and you’ll have to make big sacrifices, but that is why they are so much more deep and meaningful–and therefore “fun” in a certain sense–than typical post 20’s pursuits.

Fifth, reading–a lot, and widely, and a lot of it from dead guys (and gals)–helps in all of the above, as does finding a community, *serving* in it, and working at a hard and demanding job.  You have your parents, but also find some other adults you trust–preferably those with at least a few grey hairs–and learn from them.  Mentors from other, much older, generations can help cure the myopic vision that can easily result just by hanging around those of your age group.  That comment above about “dead guys and gals” might be tongue in cheek, but its really true: reading the writing of those who have gone before you (meaning: way, way before you) is a necessity.  It is not optional.

Well that’s pretty much it.  I feel somewhat awkward saying all that, because I haven’t exactly been a shining example of those things….it’s just what others have passed on to me, and in the course of time I’ve found them to be right.  Perhaps its all just the ramblings of a bald guy with an over-inflated sense of self-importance, but maybe there’s a thing or two worth pondering, who knows.

Even though its not going to be the same without you, I am very excited to see what you’ll accomplish in the future.  Fellas, you’ve got the right stuff.  And as you’ll find out, your training as a wrestler has trained you well for life.  Never forget that.  There’s a reason why I harp on the younguns so much about not quitting and staying the course.  When I had that conversation with you guys (and I think at one time or another I had that conversation with just about every one of you) you might not have seen the value in all that.  Well, now you do.  Now, you “get it.”  Wrestling is one tough, tough sport, and now that you’ve finished your race (for some, the race is not done yet, as you will keep going in college!  For you: stay the course…;) ) both as a wrestler and high school student, not only do you have an accomplishment that you can and will cherish for the rest of your life, but you have developed a habit of perseverance that most others don’t have.

Keep the eye,


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