It has been hard finding the words to tell my story. In any other instance, it may have been easier, but as a current wrestler with time left and goals to achieve, I was devastated to learn that my dream was to be cut short. Thus, it has been difficult determining how to best convey my thoughts.
I am from Manchester, Michigan, a small village of only about 2,000 people. Quite different from the hustle and bustle of Stanford, in the heart of Silicon Valley. I started wrestling when I was five. Growing up, I was never the most athletic kid by any stretch of the imagination. Still, throughout my life wrestling, I learned invaluable life lessons that transcended the mat and allowed me to make something of myself. Wrestling taught me how to be disciplined with my training, my schoolwork, and other areas of my life. That doing all of the little things right counts, and to always hold yourself to a higher standard. It taught me dedication; that to excel in anything, you must be persistent and have consistent discipline. It taught me sacrifice; that to achieve your goals and be successful in anything, you need to be willing to give up some things throughout life. It taught me integrity. That doing the little things right matters, and that there are no shortcuts to the top. But, more than anything, wrestling taught me the value of hard work. In all aspects of life, hard work pays off; it will take you far. Nothing worth having ever comes easy, but hard work can get you there, just as it got me to Stanford.
Since deciding during my freshman year of high school to pursue my passion for aerospace engineering in college, Stanford became my top choice because of its amazing aeronautical / astronautical engineering program and its outstanding wrestling program. But if it weren’t for wrestling, I probably never would have made it far from home and would not have been able to pursue my dream to become an aerospace engineer and design and build rovers to explore other planets. Attending college out of state is not the norm of students from my community, nor is going to a university as prestigious as Stanford. Before me, the top universities students in my school went to were the in-state University of Michigan and then Duke. Even some of my teachers didn’t think that I would be able to get into Stanford and told me not to get my hopes up. But wrestling got me in. It opened the door and allowed me an opportunity that I would most likely not have gotten otherwise because, without wrestling, I don’t believe that I would have gotten into Stanford.
Though, as much as wrestling molded me through high school, Stanford Wrestling has been a lifechanging experience. Coming from such a small, rural community, Stanford was a culture shock, but my teammates helped me make the transition. From the very beginning, they have been there for me. They quickly became my brothers, and we are like one big family. I have forged bonds that will last a lifetime. Just as much as they have my back, my teammates have also challenged me and helped me become the best version of myself on the mat, in the classroom, and in life. The Stanford Wrestling program has taken the values wrestling taught me throughout my life and reinforced them tenfold. As much as I thought I was who I wanted to be my senior year of high school, Stanford Wrestling showed me that I haven’t even scratched the surface of what I’m capable of in this life, and it has helped mold me further into the man I am today, a man that I am proud to be.
Cutting Stanford Wrestling has been shattering to me because I have much left to accomplish. It has been my goal for as long as I can remember to be an NCAA Division I All-American, and if I don’t accomplish that this next season (if we even have a season), I will not get the opportunity to achieve that goal. Furthermore, cutting Stanford Wrestling crushes the dreams and goals of my teammates, most of which have always wanted to wrestle at Stanford. Not only that, but it also destroys the hopes and dreams of current high school, middle school, and youth wrestlers who want the opportunity to pursue a world-class degree at a world-class institution, while competing on one of the top wrestling teams in the nation. It also removes opportunities for kids like me, who come from small, rural places, without much of a chance to advance to a university as prestigious as Stanford without wrestling as the key to open that door.
The Stanford Wrestling program has been important to the university since the program’s founding in 1916. I hope that Stanford will soon recognize this significance and rethink its short-sighted decision to end the program, then actively search for a solution that allows Stanford Wrestling to continue to provide opportunities and shape leaders for generations to come.
- Ethan Woods '21