20950_000_004If I won, our team was headed for the record books. Unfortunately, it looked more like I was headed for defeat.
The clock was running out in my New York high school wrestling match, and the score was 13 to 2. I was behind, and even though I had tried everything, I was no match for my opponent, Elmer. Yet I thought to myself, I can’t afford to lose. Everything depends on my match. If I lose, we can’t possibly get enough points in the rest of the matches to win. And there will go our undefeated season.
This was supposed to be our high school’s 99th consecutive wrestling team match win, and the 100th team match was scheduled later that day. It took many years of undefeated seasons to have a school record like that. Reporters from local newspapers and several radio stations would be at the 100th match because we were about to make Long Island wrestling history. No one ever expected us to lose.
Unfortunately, for publicity’s sake, the coaches had decided to save all the first-string wrestlers for the upcoming 100th match and let the second string wrestle the 99th. We watched in horror as many of our teammates lost their individual matches. It became painfully obvious to all of us that everything was going to depend on my bout. To make matters worse, I was not only the last-minute substitute for our sick, 165-pound wrestler, but my opponent outweighed me by 13 pounds.
Throughout each period, I worked extremely hard to leverage speed and skill to put Elmer on his back. Instead I fought most of the time to keep my own back off the mat. I simply could not compete with Elmer’s size and strength.
In the final moments of the match, Elmer was on his knees with his chest pressed against my back. He must have figured he could contain me there while he caught his breath and ran out the clock. Meanwhile, my coach sat despairing with his head in his hands. The roar of the crowd was deafening as they cheered Elmer’s imminent win and Brentwood’s upset.
By chance, my eyes caught sight of the clock. There were only 20 seconds to go. I wondered, What do I do now?
Just then, Elmer’s head dropped to obscure my view. He was exhausted. Instantly, both of my hands grabbed Elmer’s head. I tucked it into my chest and arched my back. Over he went like a sack of potatoes. “Pin!” shouted the referee as his hand slammed the mat and the buzzer sounded. I’d pinned Elmer before his feet ever hit the mat. Victory was mine. With only seconds left, I had glued Elmer, and our high school won its 99th in a row and went on to win the 100th team match.
Over the years, that single event has helped me recognize and deal with many of life’s more difficult situations. When the clock has run out and you have done all you can to wear out the opposition, when you have used every skill you ever learned and a few you picked up along the way, when your reputation is at stake with everyone depending on you, and when only a few faithful friends and family are still cheering for you, what do you do? You endure, especially when endurance is all that’s left to do.
I believe our Heavenly Father is with us every step of our life. He teaches us valuable principles and life’s good lessons no matter what our circumstances may be. We just need to be willing to listen, to learn, and to work to overcome our obstacles. And when all else fails, endure. God is ever mindful of us.
Sticking to It
I believe that perseverance is vital to success in any endeavor, whether spiritual or temporal, large or small, public or personal. Think seriously of how important perseverance, or the lack of it, has been in your own endeavors, such as Church callings, schooling, or employment. I believe that essentially all significant achievement results largely from perseverance.
By applying this principle, some of our finest legacies have been produced. For example, John Milton was blind when he wrote Paradise Lost. Ludwig von Beethoven was deaf when he finished some of his greatest musical compositions. Abraham Lincoln was laughed at as a gangling, awkward country boy who had many failures; but he became one of the greatest and most eloquent presidents of the United States. Florence Nightingale devoted her life to save the lives of countless wounded soldiers. All of these people left a permanent mark on the world. Their example should give hope to all of us. They succeeded not only because the Lord had endowed them with gifts, as He has each of us in varying degrees, but because they applied themselves steadfastly.
Of course, the ultimate example of perseverance is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who has and will overcome every obstacle in doing the will of our Heavenly Father. Indeed, Jesus is perfect in perseverance and has taught us to be perfect even as He and His Father are perfect (see 3 Ne. 12:48). Studying His life can help us learn and live this important principle.