There is joy in victory. If the subject is wrestling, we can confidently say that wrestlers experience joy in victory. And it’s not just because of victory in and of itself, but because of all that preceded it: that is, the sacrifice, suffering, training, endurance and dedication.

Now, it’s true that joy in victory is fleeting. But that doesn’t necessarily take away from the fact that the moment is one filled with joy. Perhaps ‘happiness’ would be a better description since the experience is momentary, but to describe it as joy is preferred simply because of the power of the moment and the sacrifice that preceded it. What’s more is that we can learn from embracing the joy of the moment. It teaches us to be grateful. In other words, much of our human experience is existential. We live from one moment to the next; and most of what we experience will be forgotten. It’s unfortunately part of the plight of the human predicament that we are unable to carry much with us in our bag of memories as we venture forward in time. So, when we have those moments that demand our attention, that deserve our embrace, we should take advantage of the opportunity; because it’s within the experience of these high points that we more easily discover gratefulness. The low points in life can deliver invaluable strength and wisdom. But it’s often the high points in which we are able to feel something magnificent. And much like everything else in this regard, it’s a gift.

With that said, there is actually another aspect of joy that we should bring to the fore. There has been a small revolution in the sport, and it pertains to a change in perspective or approach. That is, a number of wrestlers are being trained to look upon wrestling in light of fun. In other words, not only is it fun to win, but the mere fact of competing is fun in and of itself. As a result, to compete – to embrace the struggle – is not just a battle. In a dialectical (or perhaps paradoxical) way, it is also an experience of joy.

I never experienced this as a competitor; and mostly because such a perspective was far from my mind. But I did, however, experience a form of this truth when engaging in a nightly routine of wrestling with my two-year old son. Right on the living room floor is where my son and I often wrestle. And it is always instigated by a mischievous smile followed by “wrestle me, daddy!” It’s not a time of winning or losing. It’s fun! My son isn’t focused on winning the struggle; he’s focused on simply wrestling his dad. And in return, I am participating in the joy of the experience.

The child-like approach to sport should contain a purpose of joy; and it seems that it often does. The issue, then, is that we lose this sense of joy when we impose a “mature” mindset upon it later in life. As a result, joy is replaced with other things…things that prove to be mere distortions of the original purpose.

It is the child-like approach to sport that we need to maintain. There is definitely a sense in which wrestlers resemble that of a warrior, and much of my writing has expressed this view. However, wrestling is not always about strictly assuming a warrior mindset or approach. In a way, one can be a warrior and simultaneously have fun in the heat of battle. It sounds peculiar; but it’s nevertheless true.

Moreover, we should remember that a number of wrestlers started their journey in the sport via wrestling matches on the living room floor with their father, brother, sister or friend. And usually this introduction embodied fun. It wasn’t so much about winning as it was simply embracing the struggle and having fun in the midst of it. Of course one loves to win; but there’s a sense in which wrestling is a reflection of our inner being. It’s primitive, real, and simply a part of us. It can be a battle. It can be an experience of pain and struggle. But it can also be an experience of joy.

About Michael Fessler

Michael Fessler is a writer, speaker, and the author of “Faith and Wrestling”, They’re Just Not Interested”, and “The Wrestler”. While he currently resides with his wife and children in Minnesota, Michael grew up in Missouri and was a significant part of the Missouri youth wrestling scene, earning several state and national titles. He went on to compete at Oak Park High School and earned a state title as a freshman. The following year, he moved to Minnesota with his family and completed his high school career wrestling at national powerhouse, Apple Valley, where he earned another state title as a senior. He went on to compete in college at California State University, Bakersfield. However, due to recurrent injuries and a lack of passion, Michael ended his wrestling career after just a year. He moved back to Minnesota where he earned a BA in Biblical and Theological Studies (Bethel University), and then an MA in Communications (Concordia University – Saint Paul).

Michael rekindled his love for the sport of wrestling as a spectator and fan. It is his desire to help current wrestling athletes discover the wonderful unique qualities of the sport early on so that they can approach the sport in a way that makes the most of their time while competing.

The Michael Fessler Blogs

Michael Fessler peers into the life of a wrestler. From the internal struggles of balancing glory and humility, to the mental struggles of confidence and self-defeat, “The Wrestler” brings the reader into the competitive arena. And often times, aspects of this arena are hidden. What occurs in the heat of battle on the mat is only half the story. This book helps current competitors recognize what exactly they’re participating in. It seeks to help them appreciate the unique qualities of the sport, to recognize what they are gaining from it, and to craft a competitive approach that makes the most of their time as a wrestler.