Monday, February 18, 2013

Utah State Wrestling Championships and the Future of Wrestling

A year ago I watched several of Utah's best high school wrestlers leave it all on the mat in pursuit of a state title.  My nephew, Brady Farnsworth, came away with the 1A Utah State Wrestling title in 106 pound weight class.  It was an impressive end to his freshman wrestling season and put the pressure on for next year.

This past weekend I returned to watch Brady and others battle it out on the mats once again.  And once again I found myself sitting with the Altamont High Schools fans.  A great group of people, but it still felt a little strange sitting with them after wrestling for Duchesne High School back in the day.  I had one of the best seats in the house in the second row back from the mat for all 1A matches.  The first match resulted in one of two wins for Duchesne High School.

Wrestling in the 113 pound weight class this season, Brady's match was up second.  Brady's agressive style paid off right away with a quick take down but his opponent quickly escaped for one point.  Offering no reprieve to his opponent Brady worked another take down and took his opponent onto his back.  With both of his arms trapped beneath him his opponent put up a good fight with a solid bridge but the pressure, the pain and the time were too much.  Brady won with a pin with about thirty seconds to spare in the first round.

With seven wrestlers in the finals the drama and excitement for Altamont didn't end there.  The Foy brothers, whose dad (Mike) coaches for Altamont and wrestled for Duchesne, each took their turn.  Rylee Foy, as sophomore, took his second state title after a hard fought match.  Kyle Foy entered the ranks of top high school wrestlers as he pinned his opponent in 36 seconds to win his fourth state title.  It was great to see the emotion on Coach Foy's face as Kyle came onto the mat and walked off with that fourth state title.

Watching Kyle Foy took me back twenty years to 1993, my senior year.  It was the only year I made it to the state tournament, but it was a historic year for high school wrestling.  Prior to that year only one other wrestler, Allen Lake of Delta, had won four state wrestling titles in Utah.  That was in 1981.  That year my good friend Brandon Moat became the second wrestler in the history of Utah high school wrestling to win four state titles.  Throughout his high school career Brandon lost only one wrestling match.  I don't remember the details of the match, but I remember what Brandon did after he won the match.  After shaking his opponents hand and having his arm raised by the referee, he ran over and hugged his dad and coach.  No grandstanding and no unsportsmanlike celebration.  A simple symbol of gratitude to another who had sacrificed so much to make his success possible.  That same year Trent Bell of Piute won his fourth state title as well.

Four Time Utah State Wrestling Champions
(Trent Bell is listed as number two on this list, but Brandon won his state title first because he wrestled at a lower weight class.)

This year's state tournament captured the power of wrestling as a sport.  It's always impressive to watch wrestlers like Brady and Kyle decimate their opponents in seconds.  Matches that last into the third round with a close score provide much more insight, I feel, into the power of wrestling.  To wrestle hard through three rounds for six minutes against an evenly matched opponent is grueling and painful.  Training and conditioning play a major role in the final result.  Who worked hard enough during practice to develop the strength of character and will to continue wrestling hard when your body is screaming at you to stop?  If you put many of these wrestlers on a scale that measured skill and heart, many of them would be right next to one another at the far end of the spectrum.

For example, we watched Cassidy Smith, 220 pound weight class, of Altamont wrestle his opponent from Wayne High School.  It was scoreless through the first two rounds.  Cassidy chose the bottom position for the third round and managed to get one escape point thirty seconds into the round.  Both wrestlers spent the next 90 seconds circling each other, one hoping for the clock to run out and the other trying to find an opening.  As the clock ran out and the whistle blew Cassidy was up by one point when the referee called Cassidy for stalling and gave the other wrestler one point.  In an instant Cassidy went from thinking he held a state title to facing sudden death overtime.  (One lesson that should be learned is that you shouldn't look at the clock repeatedly while trying to keep the other wrestler from scoring.)  With both wrestlers exhausted they faced sudden death.  Who wanted it more?  Would someone entertain the thought that it would be easier just to let the other wrestler shoot or execute a throw?  Who would have the strength to initiate the attack rather than hoping the other would make a mistake?  Through the pain Cassidy attacked and scored the two take down points that made him a repeat state champion.

Wrestling highlights the power of an individual sport.  First, it's combative sport where skill and strength are matched directly between two opponents.  Scoring and winning are based around the ability to force you're opponent to submit, willingly or unwillingly to your will.  There is no physical separation between the opponents.  Second, all of your effort, or lack of it, is visible for all opponents to observe.  A wrestler can't blame his failure on a teammate who failed to do their part.  A different teammate can't claim credit for any victory.  As they step out onto the mat each wrestler brings the sum total of their training, conditioning, genetics, and heart.  Sure, along the way others helped to make him a skilled and strong wrestler, but it was up to the individual wrestler to take advantage of those opportunities.

A sport such as wrestling teaches some of the most important values and character traits for success in life.

  • The importance of individual responsibility.
  • The value of hard work, practice, training and conditioning.  
  • The value of being willing to take risks and the unknown...success or failure; and to do it again and again.
  • The ability to face defeat with grace, accept your mistakes and the strength to make necessary corrections.
  • The ability to take victory with humility knowing that it might prove fleeting.
  • The value of working with others to help to improve them and yourself.
  • The ability to define success as a process of moving forward and continual improvement.
This is not an all-inclusive list of values and character that wrestling teaches the willing participant.  

Olympic Games and the IOC Executive Board Recommendation
The recent decision by the IOC Executive Board to recommend that wrestling be removed as a core sport of the 2020 Olympic games is disappointing and disconcerting.  Wrestling is one of the original Olympic sports.  Wrestling, like the other original track and field events, are based in practical application, the martial arts.  These events were honored and revered because it was an opportunity for the protectors of the republic to showcase their abilities to defeat enemies and defend their nation.  It's a direct and peaceful form of competition that allows two opponents to determine a winner on a mat.  I encourage all supporters of wrestling to engage in this debate.  Speak out regarding the value and importance of wrestling on the international stage.  USA Wrestling released the following statement (see link below) and talking points regarding the recommendation.  I encourage all of you to read it.  We have time to prevent the IOC from making a mistake regarding the sport of wrestling, but we must engage and define and describe the sport.

USA Wrestling Statement and Talking Points

Collegiate Wrestling in Utah
On a final note, I would like to comment on the state of wrestling as a sport in Utah.  Up through the high school level, wrestling is a very successful sport in Utah.  The high schools and clubs produce wrestlers of the highest caliber every year.  Since 1993 Utah has had an additional 19 high school wrestlers win four state titles.  Unlike football or basketball players, however, Utah's high school wrestlers have very limited opportunities to seek collegiate scholarships in state or to wrestle in a meaningful way beyond high school.  Personally, I think we have failed our wrestlers by allowing our in state universities to abandon their wrestling programs.  Today any serious wrestler leaving high school must look outside of Utah for a solid collegiate wrestling program.  I think it also time for us to engage here in Utah to push our universities to bring wrestling back into athletic programs.  Let's find and advocate for a solution that works.  Let's give wrestlers like Kyle Foy the opportunity to represent their home state.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Intolerance of Today's Tolerance and the Right of Association

At a local library a small group of individuals meet on a monthly basis to discuss Russian literature.  Over the past ten years they've discussed every author from Pushkin to Dostoyevsky to Tolstoy.  At the upcoming meeting they plan to discuss one or two twentieth century Soviet authors.  When the date of the meeting rolls around, they find two new people there to participate in the meeting.  In short order they learn that these two new participants have no love for Russian authors.  In fact, they are two Estonian nationalists that hate everything Russian.  They are at the meeting only to discuss the negative impact of Russian imperialism and will not allow anyone to say anything positive about Russian culture.

Another scenario.  A chess club meets at the nearby high school once a week to play chess.  As part of their meetings they discuss strategy, history and play matches to sharpen their skills.  One day they receive a letter from members of the local checkers club demanding that they be allowed to be members of the chess club with the provision that the club must discuss and play checkers at least twice a month during their meetings.

Imagine a local group of nature worshippers who value the power of the earth, environmental issues, veganism, and homeopathic remedies to illness.  A local butcher shows up and demands that he be granted membership and access to their daily worship rituals.  Each day that he shows up he smells like fried bacon and talks about the wonderful taste of a good t-bone, encouraging others to try some of his wares.

Each of the new members of these groups are informed, in the politest terms possible, that because their values, words and actions don't match up with the particular common purpose of the group, that their membership has been denied or revoked.  Upon hearing this these individuals raise the cry of bigotry and intolerance.  How dare these groups not allow them access to their group just because they have different values or practices?  The fact that these associations were formed expressly for the purpose of enjoying and strengthening shared values is deemed irrelevant.  

Today a number of groups have determined that the principle of tolerance requires that they be granted access and membership to each and every group whether or not they share the same values and purposes.  The example of the day is the push to allow homosexuals and atheists to serve as leaders and be members of the Boy Scouts of America.  This group was formed to teach and protect civic and moral values that are associated with religious and patriotic concepts.  These values and principles include faith in god and sexual purity.  Parents that register their boys in the Boy Scouts of America are aware of these values and seek to indoctrinate these in their children.

As people speak up for the protection of the values encapsulated in their chosen associations, others raise the cry of bigotry and intolerance, demanding that all others be allowed to join regardless of differing values and principles.  In an effort to legitimize their values and purposes, these groups are accusing others of the sins they themselves are committing, hate and intolerance.  The demand to be tolerated has morphed into a demand to be accepted which in turn has resulted in a cry and demand that the rights of others to their own sets of values and associations be set aside and denied.

In a world of different values, principles and goals, sometimes the best we can hope for between fellow human beings is tolerance.  (I think we can and should do better than mere tolerance and add respect to the equation as often as possible.)  Tolerance, my friends, is not the same as acceptance.  You and I can have different sets of ideas, values and associations in relation to certain issue, without requiring that each of us accept the others ideas as correct or even that we should associate in relations to those issues.  The strength and value of my of my ideas, values and associations are not dependent on your thoughts or acceptance.  Yours, if they are different, should not be dependent on my acceptance either.

When someone on either side of an issue demands acceptance or membership in a group of people who hold different values, they are explicitly admitting to the weakness of their own ideas.  If the only way to validate your values or ideas is to force at the point of the law or public opinion to accept you and your ideas, you highlight the fact that you and your ideas fail to stand on their own merits.

The continuing hubbub and push to force the BSA to allow homosexuals and atheists to serve as leaders and be members flies in the face of a century of different values.  I have to ask, why would a pork loving butcher want to be a member of a club that espouses the pleasure and moral certitude of veganism?  Why would an atheist demand to be allowed to be part of a group that espouses faith in God?  Why would a homosexual demand membership in a group that espouses the value of chastity and heterosexual sex in the bonds of legal matrimony?  I don't have an answer, but I have a couple of guesses.  One, they may feel that their ideas lack credibility until they have been accepted by a group that has opposite views.  Or, two, they are willing to hate another group and deny them their right to associate with people of similar values in an effort to force them to change their thinking.  Or, maybe, they're the same thing.

If you happen to be an atheist that loves the outdoors and civic responsibility, you don't have to force a faith based group that loves the same things to accept you and make a place for your atheist ideas.  Go form you own group.  If you happen to be a homosexual that loves the outdoors and civic responsibility, you don't have to force a group dedicated to moral ideas opposed to same-sex relations to accept you and make a place for your ideas.  Go form your own group.

In all of this we can keep the discourse civil.  There is no room for hateful and spiteful speech.  There is no room for claims that the other side is hateful and intolerant because they won't accept you and your ideas.  They have a right to their own values and associations just as you do.  If you have to force someone to like you and accept you, it's likely that they will do neither.

I can tolerate someone else and their differing beliefs, values, ideas, and lifestyle without having to accept, promote, or associate myself with them.  They should be able to do the same.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Path of Liberalism: News Releases from the Future

As a student of government, politics and history of East Europe, I find the discourse between conservative and liberal ideology intriguing.  Socialist policies didn’t work out so well for them and they are still trying to recover.  Of course, it can be argued that having communism forced on them produced a unique set of problems. 

West Europe, however, has taken a different path toward socialism, allowing the people to vote for distribution of wealth and resources.  I would call this the kind path of socialism, where a large degree of personal freedom and security was maintained.  It hasn’t worked out too well for most of them either.  I’m sure the recovery will be long and painful for them over the next few decades. 

Today America is well on the path of self-imposed socialism.  Will we have better results? 

My big question for proponents of liberalism is always, “How will you make it work?”  If you provide everything for everyone, how do you make it work?  Once a majority of people are on the government dole, how do you pay for their needs?  If you listen to their rhetoric, liberals don’t talk about workable solutions.  Their solution, all too often, is to offer more entitlements to more people.  Once they get enough people sold on their ideas, I see two possibilities.  Either things collapse as they are today in Greece, Spain, Italy and other places, or the government heads down the path outlined below in my fictitious news alerts from the future.

In accordance with the Fairness in Public Reporting Act, the administration directed the FCC to close down the website run by moderate blogger Steven Craig.  Craig’s recent string of pieces regarding crime rates in major U.S. cities was deemed inaccurate and potentially racist in nature by the Department of Equal Rights and Opportunity.  The official joint statement by the FCC and the DERO states that: “Mr. Craig fails to meet the requirements of the FPRA on two counts.  First, he included demographical information in his writings, insinuating that one ethnic group committed crime more than others.  Regardless of the accuracy of the data, the FPRA states specifically that reports on crime may not indicate specific demographic information as it relates to ethnicity or race.  Second, his writings did not include data crime statistics provided to him by the Department of Justice.  The FRPA requires that all public writers and reporters include information provided by the appropriate government agency associated with the topic at hand.”

Congress is set to vote on a key provision the US Code governing the formation of the Youth Volunteer Force of America, making enrollment and participation mandatory for all youth ages 12 to 16.  The Youth Volunteer Force of America was established in 2015 as a mechanism to provide youth the opportunity to engage in service opportunities that promote American values to include sustainable energy, community service, race relations, and gender equality.  The increase in enrollment and associated dues are expected to increase YVFA revenues by nearly 45 percent,  over the next fiscal year if the measure passes.

The Department of Labor reports that enforcement of the Work Responsibility and Ethics Act has substantially decreased absenteeism in the work force.  Any employees of government supported companies or industries that fail to meet the minimum standards of work attendance and production are required to attend mandatory classes in the off hours for the first offense and face increased fines for any subsequent infractions.  Support in Congress remains strong to expand the law to include jurisdiction over employees of privately owned business.  A small, but increasingly vocal group in Congress and labor is calling for criminal penalties, to include jail time, for repeated infractions of the WREA.