Memories and Medals

May 6, 2008
Almost everyone who has participated in a competitive sport or activity has acquired one or two things: scars and medals. These are two objects that, upon sight, give people completely opposite feelings. When most people see a scar they think of some painful, horrible experience that the owner of the scar will never forget. When most people look at a medal, what they see is a token of accomplishment which the owner should be proud of. Both of these are connections made with scars and medals, two very different objects. But scars and medals are much more alike, to the owner, than anyone can imagine.

One similarity between scars and medals is how they are acquired. Both are often acquired in a competition of some sort. When I was about six years old, I went to an ice skating rink with my friend Robert. I had never ice skated before, but after persevering through about a half an hour of practice I began picking it up very quickly. Robert saw that I could skate fairly fast now and decided to challenge me, yelling “let’s race,” as he flew past me. My competitive nature and pride caused me to quickly accept this challenge, and also caused me to neglect the fact that I hadn’t learned how to stop yet. Just as I began gaining on Robert, the entering door swung out in front of me and I skated straight into the corner of the door, cutting a gash about ¾ of an inch down my lip. I was in agony the entire way to the nearest hospital.

My very first high school wrestling medal was won at Malcolm High School. When I was fourteen years old, as a varsity wrestler at the 112 pound weight class, I was struggling to even win one match in a tournament. But this all changed at Malcolm High School. We woke up at about four in the morning to make it to Malcolm for the weigh-ins. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast of the previous morning, so I was trying to ignore the pangs of hunger the entire bus ride there. We arrived at Malcolm at 6:30, weighed in, and ate breakfast. I was seeded fifth out eight wrestlers, so my first match was against the number three wrestler. I pinned him in the first period. My next match was against the number 2 wrestler, slightly more challenging. For this match I had to persevere through three grueling periods just to be tied at the end of the match. This meant overtime. In overtime my pride was on the line; I knew I had been better conditioned and he was tired, so I came in aggressively off the whistle. I got the first takedown and won by two points. My final match was against the number 1 wrestler. Even though I wrestled well, I lost by five points. The 2nd place medal was my first high school medal.

Another similarity between scars and medals is the positive memories that can be attached to them. Although most people would consider scars to be a purely negative memory, there are many scars that can bring back good memories. One such scar is a scar on my hand that I acquired through the most memorable time of my life. When I was eleven years old, I was on a DI team. DI, also known as Destination Imagination, is a competition to see who can put together the most creative eight minute skit over the course of about five months. Our team was about 4 months into preparation for districts and I was still working on cutting the cardboard boxes for scenery. This was crunch time. While I was slicing the cardboard boxes with a box cutter, it slipped and cut my ring finger. It was bleeding so profusely that it bled through three band aids. But I knew I had to finish the scenery because of my dedication to my team. So I went downstairs and finished the job. My dedication was paid off in success, when our team got first at districts and state to go on to the global competition.

Medals are often seen as a positive token of accomplishment. My favorite medal was won wrestling at the Millard West invitational my sophomore year. This is one of the toughest tournaments of the year, and I was just beginning to be successful at the varsity level. I had been thrown into a pool with Jared, a wrestler who had beaten me three other times and would beat me once again at this tournament. I won all my other matches, so I was thrown into the wrestle-back bracket. Here, my first match was against Hector who pinned me in the first period two days earlier. This was a close match that went into overtime and my dedication to the team, who were all cheering me on from the side of the mat, led me to an overtime victory. My next match was against Jared Wilmert. He had already beaten me that day, but I pulled off a victory to place fifth at one of the biggest tournaments of the year.

The last similarity between scars and medals, is the negative memory that can be attached to them. This is an obvious memory attached to scars. Just last year at the district cross country meet, held at Pioneer Park, is where I acquired my most hated scar. I was fully expecting to qualify for state in this meet, so I was very confident. When the race started, I got off to a fairly quick burst to the middle of the pack like usual. Then, about 800 meters into the race, I settled into the upper half of a large group, waiting until later to make my big move up. But I would not get that chance. As the crowded group and I took a turn, I got shoved to the inside where a boulder was firmly planted. I hit my knee against the boulder and I was down. As I was lying there screaming profanity, the thought crossed my mind that maybe I should just give up. But I decided to get up and finish the race for the team. I ended up getting 43rd place, causing the team to get 4th place and not qualify for state. I was very disappointed and felt like I had let the team down.

Contrary to popular belief, medals can also have a negative memory attached to them. This year’s Metro wrestling tournament awarded me with one of these medals. I was seeded 3rd at this tournament, and I was expecting to get 3rd with only one slight obstacle. I won my first two matches against wrestlers that were seated very low. The next day I had to wrestle Jake, who is 3rd in the state, first thing in the morning. Jake pinned me in the first period. It was disappointing because I thought I could at least hang with him. My next match was against Mitch of Creighton Prep, who was ranked 6th in the state. I beat Mitch in overtime. Finally, I was into the finals of the wrestle-backs, wrestling for 3rd place. I had to wrestle Quentin of Omaha North. I got out to the mat and the first period blew by fast. I realized that I was stronger and better conditioned than him, so I settled into coast mode, just wrestling hard enough to maintain my 2 point lead. That was a huge mistake. In the third period I was still up by 2, but with 30 seconds left he took me down and put me on my back for 5 points and he won by 3 points. After a loss like that to a kid that I know I could have beaten, I didn’t even want to accept the 3rd place medal they were giving me because I knew I deserved better.

Medals and scars have more in common than most people think. They are acquired through perseverance, competition, and pain. Both scars and medals can have a positive memory attached to them: a scar can remind one of dedication and hard work and a medal can remind one of dedication and success. Finally, both scars and medals can have negative memories attached to them: a scar could remind one of a disappointing, impeding injury or a medal could remind one of a disappointing performance. I have many scars and many medals and, in one way or another, they are all very similar.

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