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Wrestling's main event

By: Jim Linsdau News Messenger Sports Editor
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It was my first time witnessing the Mark Fuller Invitational wrestling tournament held at Lincoln High School last Saturday. I don’t know where it ranks among California wrestling tournaments but I’ve got to believe it’s one of the biggest in Northern California – and certainly has to be one of the most efficiently run. Of course, it was in its 26th year and over time some things do become more routine but not necessarily easier. I would say anyone wanting to stage a similar event ought to spend a day at the Fuller Invite and take plenty of notes. That would either lead to another successful tournament, or give ample reason why not to try it. The biggest downside to mimicking the Mark Fuller Invitational would be trying to find another Mark Fuller. That’s not to say there aren’t other accomplished athletes out there, but it would be hard to find one with a personality as gracious as Fuller’s. Although the four-time USA Olympic Team wrestler was more than qualified to help select the outstanding wrestlers of the tournament, he was probably even better at consoling the wrestlers who lost matches or were eliminated early. “I think kids today think that if they lose or fail at something they can’t do it, but that’s just the beginning,” said Fuller with a broad smile as he reflected on the number of matches he lost on his way to eventually becoming a national and world champion. “If you take any great athlete they’ll tell you their failures made them what they are today. That’s what they learn from, their mistakes. They applied what they learned on a consistent basis and made the things that happened in (their lives).” Wrestling is one of those sports in which one competes as a team, but it’s the individual performance that counts. When a grappler goes out on the mat there’s no one to back up him or her other than those who shout encouragement and instructions from the sidelines. As a basketball player, only once did I try wrestling. It was the result of a challenge where the basketball team took on the wrestlers in basketball, and then in wrestling. Never had I worked so hard while going down in inglorious defeat. Actually, getting pinned was a huge relief. When younger, I often wondered why any athlete would choose to wrestle as opposed to a sport perceived perhaps as more glamorous like basketball. But as I grew older, I discovered the empowerment that came from competing mano-a-mano. Fear of failure can be shared when playing on a team, but in wrestling you go it alone. I think that explains a lot about Mark Fuller and why failure is only a measuring stick for him, and those like him. It’s not that hard to hide when sitting on the end of the bench with little chance of playing – or of succeeding. You get to go into the game when all is lost. But in wrestling it’s you in a pair of sneakers and a limited amount of spandex against someone who wants to defeat you in the worst way. You either face down your fears or you take up another sport.