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Sweat poured down my face as I struggled to breathe. I was dehydrated and exhausted, and I was trying as hard as I could not to give up. From the bleachers and the sidelines, the eyes of every member of the crowd were focused intently on me. One side of the gym hoped I would fail, and the other side prayed that I would succeed.
The muscles in my legs were undergoing uncontrollable spasms. It seemed that I could not continue, but if I surrendered to the pleas of my body, I would not only be failing myself, but failing everyone on my wrestling team. All I could think about was winning my match. I absolutely had to win. As I looked around at the large crowd in my opponent’s school gymnasium, panic struck me, but then I convinced myself that I would win this match no matter what.
The piercing noise of the referee’s whistle split the air, and I knew it was time to continue. We had reached double overtime, something that I had never seen occur throughout my four years of competitive wrestling. The importance of this match was very clear. Each point the judges awarded could mean the difference between winning and losing the tournament. If I could control my opponent for thirty more seconds, I would be walking out of the ring with my chin up.
The first ten seconds of the match passed quickly. Then, seemingly time stood still. The other team began chanting to inspire my opponent. Each second seemed like an hour. I felt eternity pass by. My opponent stood up, but I maintained the control. My team began to count down the last five seconds of the match. My mind and my body were fighting their own battle. As my teammates yelled “Two,” I let go.
I lost the match by two seconds. The points awarded to the other team for that win gave them the lead. Because of my failure to physically endure those final two seconds, our entire team lost the tournament. This momentous loss taught me in a very striking way about the importance of preparation and training. In retrospect, I knew if I had set a more rigorous training schedule for myself, I would not have lost the match. This lesson is especially valuable because it can be applied to everything. In every challenge-in academics, in athletics, and in life, the more prepared and well-studied opponent will emerge victorious.
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