The Christian Nature of College Wrestling
I love watching the NCAA college wrestling championships on ESPN being a former high school and college wrestler myself. And the Olympic wrestling championships for that matter. The two tournaments are of slightly different free style rules but essentially the same. Wrestling was the first Olympic sport going back to 708 BC and a middle eastern sport for thousands of years. As far as I know, wrestling is the only sport mentioned in the bible. Jacob had wrestled with God and God spared him and blessed him. His name was then changed to Israel which means ‘struggles with God’. And so, Jacob was forced to confront his failures, fears, and weaknesses, his thorns, and his hurts, realizing that through surrender only God can save him. An exhausting struggle, it was wrestling with God which finally made us know that our lives are not to be easy. Personal growth always involves struggle and pain, but if it is with God, His blessings will follow.
What I also notice while watching Olympic and college wrestling is that so many wrestlers invoke the name of Jesus before and after their matches. Jesus is a part of their daily struggles, not only at match time. They proclaim their debt to Jesus, their Lord and Savior through it all. These champions and almost champions, are quite dedicated, and from that seem to develop a confidence, mental toughness and resilience that never leaves them.
Special note, it has been said that wrestling is the most strenuous sport, its practices and daily disciplines are the most taxing.
1 Peter 1:13 - Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is
to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
Colossians 1:29 - That's why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ's mighty power that works within me.
The amateur wrestler is called to always be mindful, sober and alert. Such are the fruits of dedication and commitment. With that, and the daily struggles of practice and prayer, victory follows.
Psalm 62:6 - He only is my rock and my salvation: He is my defence; I shall not be moved.
Further, I have never met a wrestler of champion quality who was not mentally tough. Mental toughness is that psychological edge that allows an individual to triumph over his/her foes. Mental toughness includes clarity and focus allowing the competitor to manage the stress and pressure confronting him/her. Mental toughness is the mindset of a winner in that they will execute excellently and consistently. With ongoing preparation they develop a belief in themselves that is solid and unwavering. Mentally tough.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Proverbs 3:26 For the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.
And confidence, a belief in themselves and a belief in God. Through endurance of those grueling practices, through repetition, through the drilling and sweat, through the prayer, comes the confidence of that execution and victory. They fight through it all to stand firm at the end.
James 1:12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
James 1:4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Seems we are in a wrestling match with God all our lives. But as adults well past the age of the wrestling of our youth, it is not struggling and wrestling against an opponent on the mat. Rather, we struggle and wrestle now against powers, against principalities, against all sorts of spiritual wickedness - within us and without us. We move from struggle to struggle, we prepare, we self discipline, we pray to engage the foe with God’s word.