Every now and then you can spot a poor kid from some no-name town walking through the Stanford campus - and if he’s the kind I’m thinking of, you can know him by a few things. He’ll stand up a little straighter than most, and he’ll have some brightness and wildness in his eyes, and he’s strong and free. He’s usually quick to smile, and slow to give up. And if he’s your friend you’re never sure if he’s going to hug you or tackle you just for fun.
If you are lucky enough to find such a person at Stanford, I can tell you another thing about him – almost for certain. He’s a wrestler.
It’s hard for me to describe how special the Stanford wrestling team is and was as I experienced it. There was a kind of common friendship on that team that I haven’t seen elsewhere. It was like having 25 best friends you could call in the middle of the night to come pull you out of a ditch. We really actually cared about each other but didn’t act like we were better than anyone else. We were pretty free of the sense of entitlement that can creep into elite organizations – probably because many of us had come from little, and because a room full of tough workout partners goes a long way to check unchecked ego.
When you’re a part of that special of a culture it helps you understand what real friendship and inclusivity looks like, and it spills into everything else you’re a part of. I remember the fun and joyfulness we brought into the little social dance groups we’d go to every now and then, and the freeness, straightforwardness, and honesty we brought to the Christian groups some of us were a part of, and the vibrance that a couple wrestlers brought to a stodgy Intro to Humanities class in the spring of 2008.
Honestly, seeing how far the culture and attitude of the wrestling team reached to change classrooms, student groups, and dorms, it is deeply saddening for me to think of Stanford without the wrestling team and its influence. One of the greatest losses would be the special group of students, who do so much to lift other people they touch into the same realm of humility, extreme toughness, and fun as is embodied by the wrestling team and the coaches (Borrelli, Blake, and T-Pain) who have shaped that team into what I saw it become and what it still is.
The trajectory and improvement of the Stanford team is also pretty unique in the wrestling community. Some years ago we were known as something like a boutique team – capable producing one or two really excellent wrestlers here and there. More recently, the consistent direction and good leadership of our current coaching staff has built the team to the cusp of becoming a powerhouse capable of consistent top 10 finishes. This of all times, when the team has been growing in success and depth as it has been, is surely the most inopportune of times to drop the program.
Bluntly stated, wrestling at Stanford taught me more about life and people and who I want to become than I could ever have learned in a classroom. The effects of that team are broad reaching throughout the Stanford student body, and the wrestling team is an extremely positive reflection on Stanford Athletics to the wrestling community.
- Nick Amuchastegui '11