USA Wrestling Wrestler for Life St...

Wrestler for Life Story of the Week: How wrestling impacted my life

By USA Wrestling/Wrestler for Life | Nov. 19, 2020, 1:31 p.m. (ET)

Newspaper clipping photo of Olympian John Matthews and Olympic champion Steve Fraser wrestling courtesy of John Matthews.

USA Wrestling’s “Wrestler for Life” program is 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, and winners will receive a USA Wrestling t-shirt.

Send your submissions to:

This week's submission is by Greco-Roman Olympian John Matthews

As a child, it began with some challenging situations.

I was born number six out of eleven siblings. My mother and father had low education and considered “poor financial status”. At age five, my mother passed leaving my father with a large family to take care of. Because of the safety and financial situation, we became ‘Wards of the state of Michigan’ and were placed in foster homes. My family was broken up around the state in different foster homes.

I was placed in three different foster homes between five and nine years old. Needless to say, what a tough situation it was in my life, not knowing where my brothers and sisters were as well as where were my parents.

I thought many times of how hurt I was… why me and should I give up?

At age 12, for some reason, my life changed. I remember hearing the “Olympic Anthem” on TV. I began thinking, what did it take to become a high level athlete. Not only that but to succeed in life. First, I had to figure out what I wanted to do, and then go for it!

I was the only one of my eleven siblings to obtain the highest educational and sports achievements. Even they wanted to know how I did it.

Reflecting back on my wrestling career, there are a few things that I will never forget. If someone told me that I couldn’t, I wanted to prove them wrong.

At age 12, I started wrestling and wanted to be part of the Olympics.

I learned to set goals, which helped put my ‘drive’ into action.

During my high school career, I did not win a state wrestling championship. I got somewhat frustrated with myself, however while in college, I did beat some HS state champion wrestlers.

I learned that I had to believe in myself with a positive attitude to achieve my goals. In addition, I learned to always give your best, which taught me discipline. I learned to have a passion for what you are doing as Steve Fraser put it, ” Enjoy the Battle”. Finally, when you are down and can’t get up, get up anyway… other wise, ‘never give up’ unless it is detrimental to you.

Wrestling taught me life skills as well for example: Hard work and what dedication is all about. How it felt to lose, only to turn it into opportunities and how it felt to win and overcome adversity.

Like running a marathon, I had some awesome positive mentors to help me along the way, telling me to keep on going.

To sum up my accomplishments, I was able to finish College with a B.S. and Master’s degree. As well as:

• Two-time Olympic Team Member
• World Cup (Silver Medal)
• Pan Am (Gold)
• NCAA Eastern Regional (Champion)
• Six-time World Team Member
• World Championships (Mexico) - 4th Place
• Fourteen- Time National Greco Roman Champion
• Competed in 11 world international Tournaments
• Four-time ‘Hall of Fame’ honors

I feel very fortunate to having had the opportunity to travel extensively. It has given me the chance to be exposed to many varying cultures and lifestyles. This has in turn made me more aware and appreciative of my own life as a citizen of the United States. Yet, it has been enlightening to find the similarities in people all over the world.