Make your mark

So I was sitting in my hospital room the other day, high on a cocktail of morphine and Ativan (breakfast of champions), when my buddy Big Jim walked in.  Yep, you read correct… my hospital room.  Around 11 o’clock one Saturday last month, I started to get the chills, but didn’t think much of it.  Just wrap me up in some warm towels, and call it good, right?  Wrong.  An hour later, I was rocking a fever of 104° with a mean case of the shakes while throwing up like a champion.  Sweet.  The last time I had similar symptoms, it was 5 a.m. on Christmas morning two years ago, when Santa, the bastard, left a nice, neat little emergency kidney stone surgery in my stocking (not to mention three more scattered over the next few months).  Good times.

After about an hour or so of intense denial about the need to go to the ER, I finally gave in, and was whisked away in one of the local fire department’s red and white chariots, complete with sirens and flashing lights.  Go big or go home, yeah?  Another few hours of blank stares from ER doctors, and I was admitted with what was deemed just a really bad bladder infection, with no real explanation, or concern for that matter, as to why I was shaking like an epileptic in the throes of a grand mall.  Solution?  Bring on the drugs, baby. We finally discovered the culprit after a couple days, a negative CT scan of my kidneys and more than my share of early-morning (see: butt-crack of dawn) blood tests.  It turned out to be a fairly mean case of cellulitis on my left thigh from my knee all the way up past my hip.  New, much more advanced solution?  Some battery acid-like antibiotics, more than a week in "the joint" and, you guessed it, even more drugs.  Hooray for me.  Considering the loopy-as-hell state I was in, it’s a miracle I remember Jim’s visit at all.

Big Jim was one of my physical therapists in rehab after I got hurt.  On the outside, he’s one intimidating guy, complete with a shaved head, some burly tattoos and more muscle than most would consider humanly possible.  The tough exterior is completely betrayed, however, by the permanent smile he wears, and the unwavering positive attitude he brings to the hospital each day.  We had an instant bond through wrestling, because his boy Zack can only be described as an absolute stud in the sport.  Well, the word "phenom" also comes to mind… so does "beast."  Anyways… By the time this kid reaches middle school, he will probably have wrestled in, and won, more matches and major tournament titles than I did in my entire 12 year career.  I have an autographed T-shirt… and you think I’m kidding.  I’ve followed the boy’s success solely through his proud father’s stories, and I could tell by the smile on his face that morning that he had a yet another doozy for me.  I’m just glad he showed up in between hallucinations, or else this story would be about purple trolls wrestling in sequined jumpsuits or something.

A deep, booming voice teamed with animated deliveries, Jim’s wrestling tales are never lacking in the entertainment department.  This particular story came from one of the many wrestling camps the big man and his beast of a child attended over the summer.  While watching a coach show a high-percentage scoring maneuver during the technique portion of the day, Jim could have sworn he recognized the name of the move, but could not place where from.  As the session came to a close, the man sat all the kids down and told them that the technique they had just learned was named after a rather successful wrestler he knew who used it to win a lot of big matches throughout both high school and college.  This man, who was paralyzed in a tragic skiing accident, always had a great work ethic and an even better attitude.  The name of the move was of course… "the Salvini."

Jim could not recall the man’s name as he told me the story that day, but he didn’t have to because he’s a friend of mine.  His name is Randy Connelly, and he was the head wrestling coach at my old high school when I was away at college.  The epitome of the word "coach," Randy’s competitive spirit is overshadowed only by his passion for his sport, which tends to spread like wildfire throughout his teams.  Every time I came home on a holiday break, he eagerly turned practices (sometimes full weeks) over to me with the hopes that what I had learned from competing at a higher level would be passed on to his kids.  I can still remember his enthusiasm the day I first showed "the Salvini" to his guys during a practice over the Thanksgiving break.

And so it is, I have officially made my mark on the sport that helped make me who I am today.  Now, I have always been a firm believer that when we finally do leave this world, each of us will be remembered based upon a few key moments in our lives.  Because of this, I always tried (keyword: tried) to carry myself accordingly.  The way I saw it, no matter where you are, or what you’re doing, you never truly know who might be watching and, especially when it comes to younger people, possibly looking up to you.  Did the move get its name because I created it?  Sorry, I didn’t.  Because I was the best wrestler ever, perhaps?  Sadly, I wasn’t.  Or is it more likely that kids halfway across the state are learning "the Salvini" not because of what I did, but because of who I was?

How will you make your mark?  How do you want to be remembered?

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