As a Stanford wrestler I was never a national champion, an All-American, or part of the starting line-up. In fact, in the Stanford Wrestling record books I’m probably unknown, my greatest achievement on the mat came via forfeit. Though I never accomplished all I hoped for on the mat, I can state without hesitation—being a part of Stanford Wrestling was an enriching experience and it is one I would never give up or change.
There are few schools like Stanford, schools that excel in academics and athletics. As a shy Mexican American kid from a low income household, I grew up not having much and with few opportunities. Through commitment, dedication, and support from my parents I exceeded expectations and gained admission into Stanford University. Knowing I wanted to continue wrestling after high school, I approached the coaches about walking on to the team and with a little bit of luck and a lot of determination my journey began. A journey that would change me for the better, shape my life, and provide me with the foundation for my future success.
Stepping into the room the first time was nerve-racking, many of the wrestlers were recruited and highly regarded. Would the team welcome me? How would they treat me? It felt like stepping into the great unknown. Looking back, those thoughts are a fleeting memory, what I remember most vividly from my time on the team are the moments my teammates kept me up when I was struggling, pushed me to be the best that I could be, and encouraged me to do more than I knew I could accomplish. Wrestling at Stanford instilled discipline, perseverance, and grit in how I approach life. It taught me intangibles that aren’t learned in the classroom—how to continue to fight when you are down, how to be a teammate, and effectively work with others. These are the lessons I carry with me in life. These are the lessons that help me be a team lead, help me be a coach, and overall help me be a better individual.
Given the impact of the program on my life, the news of Stanford dropping the wrestling program and other sports is disappointing. I worry about the lost opportunity for future students who dare to dream big, students who want it all: success on the mat and in the classroom.
If you talk to anyone about Stanford they will all agree that Stanford is a great school. Why is that? Stanford is known for its academics, its location (sunny California, in the heart of Silicon Valley, minutes away from the beach and the mountains), its friendly people, and its talented athletes. It’s a place where you can listen to a lecture from a Nobel laureate, room with a national champion, and hang out with a future CEO (this only speaking from my experience!). What you find is that Stanford is great because it is a place where you can do it all, it’s a place where there are endless opportunities for success.
That’s what made it great for me, Stanford was the place where I got to do it all – it provided the kid who had no chance an opportunity, a great education and a chance to wrestle. Why compromise, when it is all there at Stanford? This is why the announcement hurts, because of these great memories and the significant impact of Stanford Wrestling in my life. The loss of Stanford Wrestling and the other sports would be a big hit to everyone. This unique student athlete experience is an essential piece of Stanford’s identity and these losses are incredibly impactful. It is a loss for those seeking opportunities, for those like me, for those wanting to do it all, and for the greater Stanford community. It is a loss that chips away at the unique Stanford experience and its identity.
- Miguel Matta