It Took My Breath Away

Have you ever been exhausted? I mean completely exhausted, where you were unable to move? I remember a sports channel picture of a young female tri-athlete who collapsed a few feet from the finish line. She was a cinch winner until her legs buckled and she couldn’t move, soon passed by the winner, and another, and another, until it didn’t really matter if she finished, yet she tried to recover, able only to crawl across the finish line minutes later on hands and knees, taking what seemed like an eternity to do it.

 

Wrestling - Ed on Top
Illustration by Sam Abadie, for Ed Dawkins’ book Reckless But Lucky (2018)

I was in high school, where I won all of my dual meets, mostly by pinning. A district champion and a regional champion in Pennsylvania, a state known for its tough wrestlers. I was a sophomore and wanted to win the state championship at my weight. No one had ever done it from my high school, even though our team was so good that our meets packed the gymnasium. I won my first state championship match easily, and worked a lot harder to win my next one. I was in the semifinals and did not know the taste of defeat. I met another wrestler just as good. Each unable to better the other, we battled and countered. If one got taken down, he escaped. It was head to head and toe to toe and muscle to muscle. We tied! It went into overtime and it didn’t change anything. Neither could triumph. I knew that I was extremely well conditioned and was determined. I drove as hard as I could for a takedown, every last ounce of strength in this aggression. I fell on my face and he somehow flipped on top and won as time ran out. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t stand, I couldn’t crawl.

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