Here’s an item I wrote in 2005 for the MHSAA’s publication Mentor. Thinking on this event reminds me of what so often happens in so many places in this wonderful world of school sports.
"In the Semifinals of the Michigan High School Athletic Association Team Wrestling Tournament in Battle Creek, one of our member schools lost a close meet when it looked like it had it won.
"In the next to last match, its wrestler had a large lead when he lifted his opponent off the mat and put him down a bit too hard. The officials penalized the wrestler. His opponent couldn’t continue, so the wrestler lost this match and his team lost the last match, thus losing the Semifinal Meet by a single point.
"The school’s head coach was the same throughout, whether ahead or behind; and he was the same at the end of this unfortunate loss.
"Quite accidentally, I was positioned where I could overhear most of what he said to his team when he gathered it after the loss. Every word was perfect. A transcript would have been great for every coach in America to read.
"When the team had its cheer and broke, the media hustled up to the coach and tried to make the official's call an issue, but the coach wouldn’t let them. He cited the rule: 'We lift the kid even one inch off the mat, it’s our job to put the opponent down safely. We know it. It’s the rule. There could be no other call.'
"It is so often the case that we learn much more in sports from defeat than victory. As is so often the case, we learn a lot more about class and character, the kind that turns heartbreaking defeat into character-building victory."