Photo courtesy of Eddie A. Woody Sr.
USA Wrestling’s “Wrestler for Life” program has started accepting submissions for “The Story of the Week”. It can be about anything wrestling related, whether it’s a particular wrestling match you’ll never forget, or a life lesson that the sport taught you. If your story is chosen, it will be featured on TheMat.com, and winners will receive a pair of USA Wrestling socks.
Send your submissions to: Wrestlerforlife@usawrestling.org
This week's submission is by Eddie A. Woody Sr.
I was first introduced to the sport in the fifth grade while living in Oklahoma City. One of my cousins, who never wrestled, likes to take credit for encouraging me to go out for the team at Hoover 5th and 6th Grade Center. I can’t recall my coach’s last name at the present, but his first name was Eddie. He was a big strong guy who demonstrated a lot of care towards the athletes under his charge. He sought to teach us about more than wrestling, and he did by sharing his faith. He took a large group of wrestlers to the local high school to attend FCA meetings and watch high school practices. He was fairly serious about practice. I remember horse playing during our warm up one day, and without warning getting a kick in the butt. I didn’t get offended…I straightened up.
I had a break in wrestling from the fifth grade until my freshman year of high school. My home life wasn’t stable, so my family moved around a bit. My mom moved to Louisiana when I was in the third grade, so my brother and I would spend some school years / summers with her and some with our grandparents. During my freshman year of high school (1990) we moved from Metairie, LA to Newton, KS. I was a scrawny kid with a big brain who didn’t know his physical limitations. I would soon learn them. I took a lot of lumps during my high school years. I almost quit wrestling my sophomore year, but Coach Jack Thaw gave me his “If you quit on wrestling, you’ll quit on life speech” and I stayed the course. Coach Thaw was much like a father to me, and his sons like my brothers (to this day). By my senior season I had a legitimate shot to win state. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. I lost in the second round at state and again in my second wrestle back.
After HS, I went to Fort Hays State University (FHSU) to wrestle for Coach Bob Smith who is a coaching legend out of Wray, CO. He is small in stature, but Coach Smith is a GIANT on the inside. He challenged the way I did thing, and he held me accountable when I veered off track. His consistency forced me to become a man. After starting my first two seasons and being somewhat of a team leader, I lost my wrestle off. I quit the team for two weeks… After watching a dual, I realized I had made a serious mistake. Coach Smith would only let me come back if I agreed to find my way to two out-of-state opens. I did that. I went back to the team inspired enough to earn back my spot and finish the season as an All-American. I had a second All-American season my senior year. I started and finished my FHSU career with one of my BEST buddies, Mr. Cody Bickley (probably the toughest guy I’ve ever been in the room with).
Following FHSU, I decided to join the Army. NCAA DIV II doesn’t pay for the education so well, and I had college debt. The Army was a chance to repay my loans quickly and get back on the mats. Wrestling for the Army, I had the opportunity to learn from greats like Mike Van Arsdale, Eric Albarracin, Derrick Waldroup, Lincoln McIlravy, Kevin Jackson and Shon Lewis. I thought I knew what tough practices were. Well, let’s just say there are levels of toughness. I have been teammates with greats like Keith Sieracki, David and Glenn Nieradka, Dominic Black, Dremiel Byers, Iris Smith, Tina George, Oscar and Isaac Wood, Miguel Spencer, Anthony Gibbons, Bobby Lashley, Glenn Garrison, Jason Loukides, Charles Daniels (a.k.a. Chuck D) and Bruce Robinson. I have practiced with other greats like Ramico Blackmon, Corey Posey, Brandon Slay and Matt Lindland. Neither of the lists above are exhaustive. I have been very fortunate to be around a lot of great men and women. I will say this…the tightest gut wrench I have ever felt belonged to Brandon Slay. It hurt more when he released his grip.
Even with all of the experiences I’ve had as a wrestler, none compare to being able to share the sport with my son. I started him watching the sport around the age of two or three, and he started “practicing” around the age of four with the Derby Wrestling Club in KS. When he first started, I really didn’t care what he learned on the mat. I only cared that he showed respect to his coaches when they were speaking. When it was time to wrestle, he could do whatever his heart led him to do. Sometimes that was running around and playing. At the age of six, practice got a little more serious when we met Barlow McGhee in Rock Island, IL. He is a pillar of his wrestling community in the Quad Cities. His intensity and attention to detail inspired Eddie Jr. (a.k.a. Flash, or EJ) to learn and work hard. He started to grow. Because of my status as a Soldier, Flash has been afforded the opportunity to wrestle with a lot of great clubs and under great coaches. He’s trained under Barlow McGhee (B&B Tigers, IL), Eric Juergens (YG IA/IL), Jody Strittmatter (YG PA), Harry Lester and Scott Sieg (Shamrock WC, OH), Mo Kolb (Building Legends, OH), Mark Wooldridge Jr. (OH Elite), Travis Phippen (Lawrence Elite, KS), Nate Clements/Brian Gaffney/Cory Scanlan (LAW Dawgs, WI), and Jason Keck (Greater Heights WC, MO). The crazy thing is, he’s only 10 years old and has a lifetime of wrestling ahead. I look forward to being along for the ride.
Here’s what I know about wrestling, and what I share with young people when trying to influence them to try the sport. Wrestling is the oldest and the greatest. It is the only sport found in the Bible. If you look in Genesis 32, you will see God wrestled. There is a reference to “the angel of the lord” wrestling with Jacob. In the Bible “the angel of the lord” is a reference to God. God came down and wrestled with man in the sense that we wrestle today. If not, Jacob would have been killed. He wrestled with Jacob to test his resolve. They wrestled through the night (it was a grind match), and Jacob refused to yield until he received a blessing. Wrestling is about having the courage, strength, endurance and determination to face the challenges life throws at you without backing down or giving up. Because Jacob did not give up, he was blessed. If you don’t give up, you will be blessed. Besides, it’s the only sport God has participated in, and if it’s good enough for God…