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The meet ended with me. I paced back-and-forth trying to loosen my muscles and tame my nerves. For the first time, I was a member of the varsity wrestling roster. I practiced years for this very moment.

But even as I stood waiting for my match, I knew the team had already lost the meet by points. My match boiled down to a matter of pride. As I stepped onto the mat, I looked at my tenth-in-state, 152-pound adversary and saw something unexpected. I saw fallibility.

I shook his hand, and the battle commenced. I tried to gain control of him early on, snapping his head down and looking for my next move. I decided against taking the first shot and played aggressive on the head. I created offense.

As fate would have it, his shot connected and tumbled me down on my chest. The score was now 2-0, and I scrambled to escape. As we fought under the spotlight, I also wrestled with my thoughts. This kid would not undermine my senior night. I would be better than that. I would get up. Building up to my knees was easy enough, but standing up was the real fight.

I soon faced one of the toughest parts of wrestling. Breaking his hand control and trying to separate myself from him, I fought and still expected to get thrown back down to the mat. But the escape was successful, and now the score stood 2-1. That’s until he took another shot. Then, it was the same process all over again until the period finished.

Sometimes, the true mark of character is having fought until defeated.”

The second period started with us standing in a neutral position. Frustration and desperation started to kick in. I tried for a five-point move known as the chin-n-whip, which is usually thrown from a front headlock position, and it nearly worked. Within the first minute of the second period, I was the fallen victim to a headlock toss. I figured the match was over, until I heard my team yelling “turn him!” I fought off my back within four seconds and nearly switched positions with my opponent. He bailed, and the match continued.

About 30 seconds after that near-fall, the match was over. I was again put to my back, and I couldn’t find the strength to escape the pin. I shook hands with my opponent and his coaches before returning to my team. That’s when I saw coach Champion beaming.

“Hey, that wasn’t bad at all,” Champion said. “You stood up twice on him, and you never stopped fighting him. That was awesome.”

That’s when I realized it. Sometimes, the most trying battles in life can’t be won. The odds are stacked too highly against you, and someone else will take the prize. But unless you take every opportunity, fight with every ounce of strength and refuse to yield a single inch, then you will never know how it could have been. Sometimes, the true mark of character is having fought until defeated.

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