What a High School Wrestler Taught Me About Setting Goals
Last weekend, I officiated the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) state high school wrestling championships. Held over three days in front of 45,000 in the Hershey Giant Center, the top high school wrestlers in arguably the best wrestling state in the country took to the mats to fulfill their dream of winning a state championship. You don’t need to be a wrestling fan or understand a lot about the sport to appreciate the determination of these young men, especially one individual who worked the last 364 days for his big opportunity.
Austin Desanto, a senior from Exeter Twp. High School, entered his final match with a career record of 187-7. Stepping on the Giant Center mat, he found himself in the same exact spot as the previous year, in the championship final against Spencer Lee. The Franklin Regional senior was the only wrestler to hand Desanto a loss over the last two years, a span that included over 100 matches.
All Spencer Lee does is win. His victory over Desanto in the 2016 finals gave him his third PIAA state wrestling title. He entered the rematch with an undefeated high school record of 145-0. Considered by many to be best high school wrestler in the country, Lee had already committed to wrestle for the University of Iowa. While winning his third state championship, Lee defeated Desanto by technical fall, the wrestle equivalent of the “mercy rule” where the match is stopped when one wrestler is leading by 15 points or more.
The day after the defeat, Desanto knew he wanted another shot at Spencer Lee. Desanto entered the 2016-17 season competing at 132 pounds, one weight class above Lee. Closing the regular season with a record of 42-0, Desanto was ranked #1 in PA and #7 in the country at his weight class. For all his success, he was still without a state championship. That allusive gold medal would be well in reach if he stayed at his weight class. But Austin Desanto had a bigger goal, and hadn’t lost focus.
How many of us lose focus of our ultimate goal when things are going well? Maybe we fall into a routine and “settle” for the success we have instead of challenging ourselves for more. Nobody would have faulted Austin Desanto if he stayed at his weight class and won a state championship. After all, thousands of young men and women wrestle throughout Pennsylvania, but only 14 leave Hershey with a gold medal packed in their bag. And what if Desanto doesn’t win? Would it all be worth it?
Spencer Lee scored the first takedown of the match for a 2-0 lead through the first two periods. Lee scored an escape in the beginning of the third, to increase his margin to 3-0. With a little more than a minute to go in his high school career, Austin Desanto was undeterred. He scored two takedowns in just 40 seconds to tie the match 4-4. With less than 30 seconds left in the match, Desanto had a choice; he could try and ride Lee out and take the match into overtime, or capitalize on his momentum and go for the win. He went for the win. Desanto chose to let Lee up and give him a 5-4 lead and push for the final takedown. Desanto had Lee on the mat and got behind him as time expired. With 8,000 fans on their feet blowing the roof off the Giant Center, the two officials conferred in the center of the mat to determine if Desanto secured the takedown before time expired? The takedown counted, and the goal was achieved.
What is your big goal this year? The year is less than three months old, and already many of us have already broken our New Years Resolution. You don’t need to face the last page of the calendar to sit down and write out your goals and plan to achieve them.
Video of the match curtesy of Pennsylvania Cable Network can be viewed through this link: https://www.facebook.com/pcntv/videos/10155132889008588/?pnref=story