By ROCCO ARTESIAN
In a presciently and thoughtfully drafted letter, Creekside High School head coach Rick Marabell wrote:
“I have been involved with the sport of wrestling for over 40 years now. My favorite quote is from the great wrestler and legendary coach Dan Gable, ‘Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.’ I can say in my life that quote has rang true over and over again. I believe that wrestling offers certain life lessons that may take years to develop or experience.
My high school and college wrestling coaches had a huge impact on my life. They not only taught the skills and techniques required to be successful on the mat, but they also understood that, as coaches, they had an opportunity to instill character traits that would last a lifetime. As a coach and mentor, I feel it’s my responsibility to pass on those same core character traits. I have listed only five of the many core character traits that wrestling has to offer. It is these five traits our wrestling program chooses to focus on because of their lasting impact.
Humility: There is no bigger test than competing in a physical one on one completive match. In wrestling, an athlete can’t hide behind or place blame on teammates for a loss. As an individual sport, wrestling will subject a competitor to the thrills of victory, as well, the humbling of defeat. This could be very challenging to many young athletes. This experience forces an individual to make a choice on how to proceed. Either give up or grow from the experience and move forward.
Work Ethic: Success in wrestling is directly related to how hard you work, period. Talent can make a difference, but the best wrestlers are typically separated by those who have put the extra time and effort into their preparation. This carries over into life because there is no substitute for hard work.
Discipline: Wrestling requires an uncommon sacrifice, dedication and most important discipline. Nothing will push you more mentally and physically than the sport of wrestling. Demanding one to be self-motivation and self-reliance to achieve one’s goals, which is all intertwined with discipline. It is you alone that stands in that circle on the wrestling mat. Yes, you’ll get help from coaches, mentors and your parents to prepare, but in a wrestling match it’s all on you.
Mental Toughness: Mental toughness is even more vital than physical toughness, as your mind will almost always give up before your body. Wrestling does develop physical toughness, but most importantly the aspect of mental toughness. In all sports, mental toughness plays a key component, but in wrestling, it’s more prevalent because of the one on one combative nature of the sport.
Confidence: Once you realize that the worst thing that can happen in wrestling is getting pinned, which can be upsetting, you have only one direction to go and that is forward. You may not be successful at first, but this can be achieved through work ethic, self-discipline and continual determination to improve one’s self. Once you put it all together then success will follow.
All five of these character traits are symbiotic because they rely on each other. Through one’s work ethic and self-discipline develops mental toughness and in the end one’s self-confidence, but it all starts with humility. I know wrestling isn’t for everyone, but if an athlete chooses to participate in wrestling then they will be rewarded with qualities that will remain with them throughout their lives.”
Rick Marabell has served as the head coach for the Creekside High School wrestling team since 2008, when he initiated the program; since then, he has been the only head coach for the team. Creekside High School, located in St. Johns, Florida is a Class 3A school for wrestling, meaning it has a very large student population and competes in the toughest division in the state against other giant high schools. This past season, Marabell headed a team that had three wrestlers – Hunter Brown (region champ), Bryan Fortay (2nd in regions), and Diego Rivera (4th in regions) – punch their tickets for the state tournament. In addition to these three state qualifiers, Creekside High School had three district champs (Brown, Fortay, and Vincent Approbato) and four other wrestlers who placed in the districts (Rivera, Hunter England, Andrew Feeks, Conner Wright, Cathan Simpson, Keanan Sexton, Lee Leavell, and Michael Little).
Marabell wrestled at both Keystone College and Millersville University. At Keystone, he was a two-time national qualifier in his college’s division. During his sophomore year, he was ranked number two in the nation for his division. Marabell furthered his wrestling accomplishments while serving as a starter on the U.S. Air Force Team. He was a member of the All-Air Force Team that was present at the Olympic training camp in the early 1990s. In total, Marabell wrestled hundreds of matches during his collegiate and Air Force careers, with the vast majority of those matches resulting in Marabell victories. When he graduated from Tunkhannock High School (Pennsylvania), he was only the second person in school history to record over 100 wins.
Creekside High School which, overall, has outstanding athletic programs as overseen and developed by its statewide-respected athletic director, Luke Marabell (brother of Rick), is also an academic powerhouse. The school ranks, academically, at the very top in Florida; the St. Johns County School District is ranked in the top 10 nationally. Smart schools employ smart wrestling coaches and athletic directors.
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