A Wrestler’s Journey: Life, Wrestling and the Pursuit of Happiness: Chapter Six

If you haven’t read the previous chapters you can read those below!

A Wrestler’s Journey: Life, Wrestling and the Pursuit of Happiness; Chapter One.

A Wrestler’s Journey: Life, Wrestling and the Pursuit of Happiness; Chapter Two

A Wrestler’s Journey: Life, Wrestling and the Pursuit of Happiness; Chapter Three

A Wrestler’s Journey: Life, Wrestling and the Pursuit of Happiness: Chapter Four

A Wrestler’s Journey: Life, Wrestling and the Pursuit of Happiness: Chapter Five

Chapter Six: With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility:

Greg woke up to do his morning routine and he felt a little bit different today than most days. The last few weeks in school he had really tried to focus on what Coach Bob had taught him, that he couldn’t control the way others acted. However, it was really gnawing at him that this one classmate of his, Jeremy, was being particularly mean almost daily to Greg and his other classmates. Greg wasn’t sure why it had bothered him so much but he thought about it as he did his morning routine. When he got to his box jumps he jumped up and missed the box and hit his shin on the box. It hurt and he saw his leg was bleeding a bit.

This reminded him of a lesson Coach Bob had given him and Aiden about being present when they do anything. “It is very important to be present when we do any activity. If our mind wanders we’ll make mistakes, but if we can focus on where we are, we can do our best!” Coach Bob had taught them this after one particular day when Greg and Aiden couldn’t seem to focus on their drilling.

As Greg cleaned his leg and went upstairs to take his shower he overheard his parents chatting in their bedroom. Greg stood there silently to listen for a second. “Greg really has taken such tremendous leaps with wrestling, maybe it’s time to just have him focus on one sport?” Dad said while Greg inched closer to the door. “Greg loves all his other sports though, and he’s still only 9 years old. It’s too early to tell if wrestling will even be his main sport. I think we should just ask Bob what he thinks.” Greg heard them move towards the door so he continued on to his room. Greg did love wrestling, but he also did enjoy his other sports too. Right now he couldn’t focus on that, he had to shower and get ready for school.

After his shower he went downstairs for breakfast with his parents. Mom and Dad were both already eating breakfast and drinking their coffee. “Good morning Greg! Today’s gonna be a great day buddy!” Dad said as Greg walked into the kitchen. It had become part of Dad’s morning routine to affirm to Greg that it was going to be a great day. This had been a fun thing for Greg at first but now it was just something he had come to expect. He wondered sometimes if Dad actually believed it or if he simply said it because he thought it was what Greg wanted to hear. Greg himself always questioned whether or not it would actually be a great day.

Today didn’t feel like a great day, it had already started off rough with Greg scraping his shin. “Good morning Mom, Good morning Dad! Are my pancakes ready?” Greg had started to have these delicious protein pancakes with strawberries every morning that Mom made, he used a natural maple syrup too, so it was a very sweet but still healthy breakfast. It was one of his favorite parts of his morning routine.  

“Is something wrong honey? You seem off.” Mom said to Greg as she served him his food, “I banged my shin doing my box jumps this morning. It bled a little bit but I cleaned it up in the shower and put a bandaid on it already!” Mom looked at Greg and nodded, but Dad could tell there was something else. “What else is bothering you buddy?” Greg looked up with a mouthful of pancakes, “Nothing…” he mumbled as he tried to avoid the conversation. “Greg, I’ve seen this look before, it’s the look you have when you’re thinking about something a lot, we can’t help if you won’t talk to us buddy.”

Greg finished his plate and looked up “Fine, there’s this kid at school, Jeremy, he picks on me and my classmates a lot for almost anything. He calls me a know it all and teacher’s pet, and he even picks on this kid in our class who has hearing aids which I think is really mean but the teachers never do anything about it. It’s frustrating.” Dad looked at Mom, “Why don’t the teachers do anything?” Greg looked out the window, “Well Jeremy’s dad is a teacher there, and apparently he’s important or something, so none of the teachers will discipline Jeremy.” Dad nodded. He had experienced similar things as a kid.

Bullies who always got away with things because their parents held some sort of power over those who could do anything about it. It wasn’t fair then, and still isn’t fair now. “Well Greg, life isn’t always fair as you know. But I want you to know that you are always allowed to stand up for yourself and others. When we do the right things we might sometimes get in trouble but it is always better to do the right thing than to allow others to do wrong. Does that make sense?” Greg nodded, “Coach Bob always said that Aiden and I have the power to change the world around us. That we have a responsibility to use our skills and knowledge to make our world a better place. I think I get what you and Coach Bob are saying now, Thanks Dad!” Dad smiled and nodded to Mom, she smiled back and acknowledged this was a big conversation. Greg got ready to go to school, this was going to be a big day in his life.

When Dad dropped Greg off at school he smiled and told him what he always said, “Make it a great day buddy!” Greg ran off towards his friends. It was a normal school day for the most part. At Greg’s school you stayed with the same classmates all day except for recess and lunch. Greg loved recess because he got to see his other friends in the other class. One of his best friends was this girl, Bella. They had been friends since kindergarten and Greg saw her like the sister he never had. Well when Greg got outside at recess he saw Bella crying. He ran over to her to ask what happened.

“Bella! Are you okay? What happened?” Bella looked up “I’m okay Greg, we were playing four square and Jeremy came over and took the ball and yelled ‘dodgeball’ and started throwing the ball at us, I fell over and then he came closer and hit me in the head with the ball.” Greg was furious. He could feel the anger building up as he looked around the school yard for Jeremy. “Where is he…” Bella got up and tried to calm Greg down but he was on a warpath. “Greg it’s fine, you don’t need…” Greg finally saw him on the swings, laughing and pointing at other kids playing on the playground. “If the teachers won’t do anything than I will.”

Greg took off into a sprint and ran right at Jeremy. He didn’t even try to stop and talk, he just dropped into a double and took Jeremy down to the ground. “You think you can hit my friends! You think you can just bully everyone and get away with it!!” Greg was swelling with anger and felt like punching Jeremy but he knew he shouldn’t hit anyone. But before Jeremy answered two of Jeremy’s goons tackled Greg off of him. Greg squirmed free and got to his feet, “Oh wrestler boy wants to fight now? Should I go get a teacher for you to kiss up to first?” Jeremy poked the bear; Greg was furious now. “I am sick of your act Jeremy. You’re mean to everyone and you’re a miserable person. Do us all a favor and just learn to shut up.”

Greg shoved the two goons away from him when they tried to grab him, “And who’s gonna make me?” At this point two teachers had started to walk over after seeing what Greg had done, but they weren’t walking fast enough. “I am!” Greg responded as he ran at him, Jeremy expected Greg to grab his legs but this time Greg ducked around him, locked his hands around his waist and lifted Jeremy up and slammed him to his stomach, a perfect mat return. Jeremy hit the ground face first and Greg held him down, “You leave everyone alone from now on, but most importantly you leave my friends alone. IF you so much as mutter a word to any of them you’ll pay again!” Greg was fuming but it felt good to stand up to a bully like Jeremy. But his feeling of triumph was short lived, as the two teachers finally got there and pulled the boys apart.

Greg took a familiar walk down to Principal Joseph’s office. He had often gone down there just to talk about wrestling, but it had been over a year since he had gotten into any real trouble. Of course, Greg figured he’d be okay since Principal Joseph was his coach now, there’s no way Greg would get in trouble for doing the right thing. Greg walked confidently into the office and sat down. He had noticed that Jeremy hadn’t taken the same trip though. The teachers had only grabbed Greg, Jeremy must’ve been taken to the nurses office or something.

Principal Joseph walked in, “Well, this is a big shock Greg! I never thought you’d be back in here cause you were causing trouble!” Principal Joseph sat down, “I didn’t cause it sir! I was sticking up for my friends, Jeremy has been bullying us all year…” Greg tried to continue but Principal Joseph put his finger to his mouth and shushed him. “Greg, I am well aware of Jeremy’s actions all year, I get a complaint from parents almost daily. Unfortunately his dad is a teacher here and at that is the head of the Teacher’s Union. He holds a lot of sway with teachers here and they’re scared to do anything. Without a teacher reporting him personally, I can’t take a parent’s word.” Greg was fuming again, “That’s so not fair Coach Joseph!” “Principal Joseph here Greg. You have to think of me as two separate people.”

Greg was confused but he thought it made sense, “Greg, fighting is a pretty big thing here. It’s taken very seriously. And Jeremy’s dad is going to raise some hell for what you did to Jeremy, now I know you didn’t really do too much, you really only slammed him but you can’t be the one instigating violence. All that the teachers saw was you run at him and tackle him, and then slam him to the ground.” Greg jumped up “But that was after he hit my friend Bella in the face!” Principal Joseph sat up a bit, “Oh he did that did he? Did any teachers see that?”

Greg shrugged his shoulders, “If they did no one did anything, but I saw Bella crying, she’s one of my best friends, I don’t think she was lying.” Greg sat back down, Principal Joseph nodded his head. “So it sounds to me like you weren’t instigating but rather defending a friend, which while admirable is still against our school’s zero violence policy. Unfortunately Greg you may be looking at a week’s suspension for fighting.” Greg nodded his head, accepting that it might be fair considering he had tackled Jeremy out of nowhere.

“But Greg, I want you to know that I appreciate you doing the right thing, even if it seems wrong due to the punishment. You have a very big heart and are a smart kid. When you’re an athlete and person like you it is essential for you to use that to help others. Have you ever seen the original Spiderman movies?” Greg laughed, his Dad had made him binge watch the three movies before they went to some Spiderman festival last summer. “Yes sir.” Principal Joseph smiled, “Do you remember the speech Uncle Ben gave Peter, ‘With great power, comes great responsibility.’ That one?” Greg nodded, “Yes sir I remember that.” Principal Joseph stood up, “With skills and knowledge like yours Greg you are someone a lot of people will be scared of, you intimidate them by being someone who seems to be good at everything. But you must NEVER make others feel inferior. The truly great people in this world don’t put people down like Jeremy, they pick people up. Keep picking people up buddy. But remember, no wrestling outside of wrestling practice! We had this conversation a couple of years ago!”

Greg did in fact get suspended, but it wasn’t for a week, he was suspended for two weeks for fighting and bullying. During those two weeks though he learned a lot about himself and also the way the world worked. He was able to do more working out and wrestling during the time too. Greg met with Coach Bob almost every day, technically since he had been suspended from school he wasn’t eligible to practice with the team either, it was a rule the team had in place to reinforce good school habits. Coach Bob, Greg and Aiden all got together at Coach Bob’s before practice to do some private lessons.

After the first week Greg started to really get frustrated not being in school with his friends, he ranted to Coach Bob about it. “It’s not fair Coach! I was sticking up for my friends and I was the one that got in trouble! It’s really hard to trust the process when the process screws you!!” Coach Bob just laughed at the 9 year old cynic Greg was becoming.

“Well Greg, in life there are always consequences, regardless of the right intent. Think of it like wrestling, if I have the intent to shoot a double leg, and I double leg the guy down and accidentally hurt him. I didn’t mean to hurt him, but I did, is that right or wrong?” Greg thought for a second, “Well you didn’t mean to hurt him?” Bob nodded, “I mean technically I did, I MEANT to double leg him, there was always a chance I hurt him, it wasn’t what I meant to do but it was a consequence of my action. Does that make sense?”

Aiden chimed in, “It’s like if you are shooting a Nerf gun and accidently hit someone in the eye Greg, you didn’t mean to but it happened!” Bob nodded, “That’s why we banned Nerf guns inside the house Aiden! But that’s another good example!” Greg sat there head in his hands for a second, “So even though I was trying to do the right thing sticking up for my friends, there’s always a consequence, I think I get it now. But does that mean I should never stick up for people?”

Coach Bob sat for a second to think about what he’d say next. How do you explain to a 9 year old that they should always stick up for others even if it might get them in trouble. Then he remembered something he had read in a book about Martin Luther King Jr. “’The time is always right to do what is right.’ That’s a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. He was always sticking up for others, and it didn’t always end well for him, but he did it anyway.” Coach Bob paused for a moment and looked at the two little boys sitting in front of him. He was proud of the men they were becoming. He continued, “I want you to know that no matter what happens, it is always worth it to defend those who need the help, even if it puts ourselves in a bad spot. This world needs those who will stick up to bullies and bad guys!”

Greg and Aiden smiled and nodded, Greg looked confidently at Coach Bob. “I’ll protect everyone I care about no matter what happens to me, with great power, comes great responsibility!” Coach Bob started laughing hysterically, Greg and Aiden joined it cause they had never heard him laugh like that before! “What’s so funny dad?!” Aiden asked trying to suppress laughter. “Oh nothing, I just know that Principal Joseph told Greg that, he’s been obsessed with Spiderman since he was your age, he hung posters all over his room even in college!” Greg was amused by the idea of big Principal Joseph having Spiderman posters all over his room like a little kid.

Tomorrow was going to be Greg’s first day back at school in two weeks since his suspension and he was a mix of excited and scared. He was nervous because he felt like people might think he is the bully now. The way he had been looked at by the teachers when he grabbed his stuff to go home the day of the fight made it look like they all thought he was the bad guy. But nonetheless he woke up and did his morning routine and prepared himself for the day.

Dad dropped him off but before he got out of the car Dad stopped him, “Hey buddy! Never stop being your same awesome self! No matter what other kids or teachers do or say, just know that there are so many people who are very proud of you, always.”

Greg got out of the car with a big smile and walked confidently into the school. To his surprise the teachers and his classmates looked very excited to see him. They were smiling and waving like he was returning from a long vacation, not a two week suspension. Some of his friends even made signs that said “Welcome back Greg!!” When he got near his classroom Bella ran out and gave him a big hug! “Hi Greg!! We’re all so happy you’re back! Guess what!? Jeremy left the school after you beat him up! It’s been so nice not having anyone pick on us for the past two weeks, and now our hero is back!!”

Greg was confused as to how he should feel. He never meant to make Jeremy leave the school, but he guessed that was another consequence of what happened, but in this case that belonged to Jeremy. Greg did like the idea of being someone’s hero though, what should his superhero name be? Captain Greg, BatGreg, SuperGreg… no Greg thought, he’d be IronGreg!! Greg walked into class with a big smile on his face. He could get used to the feeling of people looking up to him!

Published by Centurion Wrestling Club

Former D1 Wrestler at Penn State University. Member of Four national championship winning teams.

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