There is a beginning so there can be an ending. There is a start so you can have a finish. My early morning weigh-ins, days of memorizing bout numbers, and nights of scarfing down my only meal have come to a close. After a Michigan career devoted to working in Big Ten college wrestling, four years of unpacking adidas cardboard boxes and the triumphal elimination of Pedialyte and concocting shake recipes in arenas across the country, I’ve reached my end. At the 2014 NCAA Wrestling Championships in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, I brought home my fourth All-American honor, or so I pretend. I’ll love the three days of the NCAAs forever — the best three days in all of sports. But this is about something that lives beyond four years of an undergraduate experience.
Enter, James English.
English is a sixth-year senior at Penn State University. (Sure, the numbers don’t add up for a student-athlete’s time in college. Long story, one of persistence.) The Division I wrestler has a story not to be summed up by a cliche phrase or a cutesy analogy; he deserves more than that. English and I, perfect strangers with stake in the same sport, went out together. His last day was my last day. Our stories ended on Saturday, March 22, 2014. But James English’s story may just out live mine.
Through the frustrating days and the rewarding days, I’m humbled to have had the opportunity to live my Michigan years alongside these people. People with heart. Decent people. People who demonstrate the human condition’s simultaneous toughness and vulnerability.
The best three days.