Wrestling With Lessons Of Life


His stoicism broke as he slumped, alone in the school parking lot. Tears of disappointment fought their way down his sweat-soaked face.

The only onlookers that cool, crisp Saturday afternoon were a pair of teenage girls who silently wondered what tragedy could have befallen the popular 18-year-old Payson High School wrestler.

Only minutes earlier the young man, senior Doyle Van Horn, had battled valiantly through almost three full periods of one of the most evenly and hotly contested matches ever witnessed in the 11-year history of the Tim Van Horn Memorial Tournament.

If fate was kind and life always fair, Doyle would have won that match. Then, he would have gone on to capture the outstanding wrestler award of the tournament that is held annually in honor of his father. Because, four years ago when Doyle was just a freshman, he'd made it his goal to win the Van Horn award.

Doyle wanted to earn it out of respect for his father -- a longtime Longhorn wrestling booster who was tragically killed in a 1988 automobile accident.

Doyle cherishes many fond memories of his Dad and the precious moments they shared together cheering the accomplishments of Longhorn wrestlers.

Prior to the 2000 memorial tournament Doyle knew all too well that, as a senior, this was his last chance to finally realize his personal goal of claiming the award.

Although he approached that crucial Saturday afternoon match much like a Spartan warrior battling the ultimate foe, fate played a cruel, twisted trick on Doyle.

In the final five seconds of the match, his much-heralded opponent miraculously scored a one-point escape to break the 2-2 deadlock and win 3-2.

With that loss, Doyle's hopes of winning the Van Horn award were shattered. He was heartbroken and wanted only to be left alone in the parking lot to ponder what he could have done differently.

That evening at the post-tournament awards ceremony, still reeling from disappointment, Doyle stood with his teammates on the sidelines as the wrestler who had beaten him earlier that day was proclaimed the recipient of the Tim Van Horn Memorial trophy.

Doyle Van Horn suffered deeply that day, and some might wonder if the sacrifices he made were worth the effort. After all, wasn't he eventually disappointed? Wouldn't it have been easier to just back away from the goals and challenges he had set for himself? Would you blame him if he tried to avoid the heartbreak of defeat?

But, no. Doyle Van Horn responded like the true warrior he is. He's enthusiastically back in the practice room with a new set of goals -- this time to help his Longhorn teammates earn the 2000 state championship.

He's ready to move on.

Doyle's saga is a tremendous lesson for all young people --set your goals high, work hard and do everything possible to achieve those aspirations.

When setbacks occur, and they almost assuredly will, learn from them. Put them behind you. Then set new goals and return to the arena of life with even more devotion and passion.

Theodore Roosevelt said it best: "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, he fails, at least fails while daring greatly...."

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