Sunday, February 19, 2012

Memory Lane and Wrestling

This weekend my family and I came up to Provo from Henderson, NV.  My nephew, Brady Farnsworth, was set to win the state wrestling title for his weight class in 1A high schools.  I knew months ago I wanted to be there to support him in his attempt.  Almost equally important, it was one of those great opportunities to live vicariously, albeit for a brief moment, through someone else.

From first grade through seventh grade I was a very active wrestler.  Never anything special, I nonetheless managed to rack up more wins than losses during that period.  During that time I owe any success I had in the sport primarily to Dave Moat, my good friend’s dad and long time Duchesne High School wrestling coach.  Each year Coach Moat offered wrestling classes for the elementary age boys in the community.  We would have wrestling practices for a short period followed by a tournament.  I loved the sport and tried to be involved as often as I could.  Coach Moat and his son Brandon often invited me over to their house for additional practices and they would drag me along to tournaments in different places. Of course I owe so much to my parents for their willingness to cart me around to and from practices and tournaments.  My dad was always my best wrestling partner.

By the time junior high rolled around, I was a solid wrestler, again nothing special, but decent.  In eighth grade our family moved to Florida.  Disappointment set in as I realized that my middle school and high school did not have a wrestling program.  For three years I focused my athletic efforts solely on football and weightlifting.  My junior year I moved back to Duchesne.  By the time wrestling season rolled around, my nerves were in disarray in anticipation of stepping out onto the mat by myself.  In practice I quickly learned that wrestling is a perishable skill and mine had three years to stagnate.  But I jumped back into it anyway.

My junior year was rough with only a few wins and a lot of humiliation.  Things improved a bit my senior year and I even made it to the state tournament.  Looking back on those two years of what many would consider unsuccessful wrestling, I wouldn’t trade them away.  Great lessons come from loss and from being around those who put personal success and failure on the line.

Wrestling is unique among high school sports.  All the others are based strongly on team effort, providing valuable lessons in working together and sharing success and failure.  Wrestling teaches personal responsibility in a way that few high school sports can.  When a wrestler walks out onto the mat, he carries with him the knowledge that any success or failure he experiences are his alone for that particular match.  Sure he’s had people teach him and show him how to wrestle.  Of course others have encouraged and helped him to work hard and control his diet to maintain weight.  But, on that mat only his efforts will matter.  It’s a one on one contest between two wrestlers who, in most cases, have had equal amount of time to prepare for that season.  Sometimes it comes down to who has the heart to push through the pain and struggle of the last minute of the third round.

Back to the 2012 Utah State High School Wrestling Tournament.  My nephew wrestles for Altamont High School, my alma mater’s biggest rival in the Uintah Basin.  The first day of the tournament, I found myself sitting in Longhorn territory.  As many of my former classmates and fellow Eagles can imagine, it wasn’t an entirely pleasant experience but I was there for Brady.  He wrestled first, being in the 106 lbs. weight class.  His first round match was against tall kid from Wayne that he hadn’t before wrestled.  All of us were a bit nervous but none of us were as nervous as Korey, Brady's dad.  He had poured his heart and soul into giving Brady the opportunity of being a great wrestler.

He pinned him about 40 seconds into the first round.  The next round was the semi-final.  I don’t remember where the kid was from but Brady pinned him in the first round as well.  Brady is a powerful and quick wrestler, quick to take control and dominate the match while remaining patient enough to avoid costly mistakes.

In between matches my sister pointed down to a nearby section.

“Jarad, there’s Dave Moat.”

I hadn’t seen him in over 10 years.  Jumping up I headed down.  I was relieved when he recognized me since I no longer meet the parameters to wrestle at 160 lbs as I did my senior year.  Coach Moat spent over 30 years at Duchesne High School, teaching English and coaching wrestling and track.  It was great to get caught up with him and reminisce a bit.  We talked about his children and grandchildren and about his amazing parents who were in my home ward growing up in Duchesne.  His son Cody was at the tournament as a coach for Millard High School down in Fillmore.  It was the most relaxed I had ever seen Coach Moat at a wrestling tournament.  He was enjoying watching the matches and playing with his grandchildren.  I also had the chance to speak with his wonderfully kind wife for a few minutes.  The experience reminded me how grateful I am to all those who helped me along as a young man. 

After my conversation with Coach Moat I visited with Justin Robb, a good friend and teammate from football.  He married Whitney Farnsworth, one of Korey’s cousins and now lives up in the Altamont area.  He joked about how he still bleeds blue and has a difficult time cheering for Altamont.  We shared some good laughs about the present and the past.

It was fun to watch the current coaching staffs of the Duchesne and Altamont wrestling teams.  Today, Mike Foy, a great athlete at Duchesne (a few years before my time) is now one of the coaches at Altamont.  He works hard to teach the boys how to wrestle and the value of hard work.  At the same time Bobby Bird, a former Altamont wrestler, coaches the Duchesne team with Kelly Kielbasa.  Both work hard to coach their boys as well. 

On Saturday evening all of the Van Wagoner clan was gathered together to watch Brady wrestle for the state championship round.  The only one missing was Marcelo, Janalee’s husband.  We took up a big chunk of a section waiting anxiously for the match.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to sit through the match so I stood up at the back near my dad and a few others.  While standing up there I ran into a few other good friends and neighbors from back in the day.  Growing up in a small town is great for several reasons.  It gives many a sense of belonging and kinship that you won’t find in bigger communities.  I had a good chat with Shon McKinnon.  He’s as friendly as ever.  My dad and I visited with Travis Peatross.  The Peatross family, Travis and his father Ron in particular, had a significant impact on our family.  It was great to see someone after so many years and feel the affinity immediately.

The championship round kicked off right at 5pm with a parade of champions.  All those wrestling for the state title came in first, by weight.  Brady and his opponent from Panguitch, both being in the smallest weight class and in 1A high schools, led the way.  All of the other wrestlers who made it to state followed them into the arena.  We all stood for their entrance and for the singing of the National Anthem. 

As the start of the match approached I felt my own adrenaline and nerves kick in.  As I mentioned previously, this was a vicarious moment for me.  I was bouncing from foot to foot, shaking my arms loose, and getting ready. Looking behind me I could see Korey in the dark by the bleachers, watching controlling his apprehension.  They called the wrestlers to the mat.  After the introductions and preliminaries the match was on.  Brady, as always, was quick to engage quickly locking up with his opponent.  They had wrestled each other before, so both had an idea of what to expect.  Brady was quick to get the take down and scored some near fall points a couple of times during the first round.  The Panguitch kid fought hard to keep his shoulders off the mat.  Second round.  Brady won the coin toss deferring to the other wrestler.  If I remember correctly, he chose to be down.  After 60 seconds into the second round Brady had him on his back again, scored some more near fall points.  The score was 11-0.  Brady turned him onto his back again fighting to hold him down.  His strength proved too much for his opponent as Brady pinned him.

Brady, as a freshman, won the state wrestling title for the 106 lbs weight class.  It was an amazing night for him, the reward of years of hard work and dedication.  It was an amazing night for his father who couldn’t have been prouder of what his son had just accomplished.  It was an amazing night for his mother who worked so hard to raise him and get him to all the places he needed to be.  It was an amazing night for all of his family, the Van Wagoners and Farnsworths, to experience his success together.

It was an amazing two days for me.  I was able to live vicariously through my nephew, to feel the exhilaration of his victories.  I was able to reflect on the value of friendships, old and renewed.  I was able to reflect on the value of family and the support we provide to one another.  I was able to reflect on how wonderful it was to grow up in place like the Uintah Basin.

My oldest boy Elijah is now in wrestling classes.  I hope to live vicariously once again through him…

- Jarad Van Wagoner

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Always good to go to where you grow up, visit with friends and family. Thanks for the blog and trip down memory lane.