Gabe Dean is an interesting guy who is on the way to becoming the greatest college wrestler to ever to come from Michigan. That's no easy accolade.
I cringe at every question about football that gets thrown his way. Yes, college football is a huge money maker and more media cover it than wrestling. However, the side story as a sophomore national champ is over. It's now time to appreciate him for being the most accomplished collegiate wrestler who will return next season. Also, his Dad was an incredible wrestler for Minnesota and Gabe's high school wrestling coach in Lowell. Let's not act like wrestling was a side story in his life.
I was very proud and humbled to shake Gabe's hand on Saturday night in the press room in Madison Square Garden. It wasn't the first time I have shaken his hand by any means. I have done it many times as an acquaintance, referee, and even opposing coach. What makes it an honor is the man he has become. Proof is in this video of the letter he wrote to himself.
When he lost twice in the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational he spoke to his younger brother to never take for granted the opportunity to compete. As wrestlers, even average ones like myself, we take our losses hard and take for granted our wins. What ever level we are at we tend to take for granted and look forward. It's a quality that helps make wrestlers the best people on the planet. However, not realizing that the opportunity to compete is a gift can have those losses ground you to a pulp and kill your desire. There are many who dream to take your place.
He also talks about the willingness to fail. Ever year thousands of middle school and high school kids walk in to a wrestling room for a practice (or a few) and never return. Because they are not immediately great at something, they cannot handle it. Wrestling will probably never be the most popular sport because of this, but it is also what makes us so devoted to it. It is hard, and without the failure the successes do not feel as unmatched in athletics as it does in wrestling.