College Essay: Grappling with – and overcoming – a tough decision on the mat

Larry Sanchez
Larry Sanchez, Minneapolis Roosevelt High School

Class starts at 8 a.m. But I have been at school since 6 a.m.—running stairs over a puddle of my own sweat and pushing my limits in the weight room. I only thought about how I could break those limits, all for the sole purpose of getting better at wrestling. After school, it was straight to the wrestling room. When it came to wrestling, I was not going against my teammate, but I was going against myself.

Only 48 student-athletes in my weight class earn the chance to wrestle at state for Minnesota. Sections were in two weeks, taking place on Friday night and Saturday morning. I would toss and turn at night with the thought of the tournament, mainly because I knew I’d have to give everything I had. Soon, though, I was confronted with a hard decision that could change everything.

I wrestled in my weight class at 145 pounds my sophomore year, and my friend Will was junior varsity at the same weight during his senior year. At sections, I could have wrestled at my weight and been ranked first in my seed, but that would have eliminated any chance Will could have to wrestle at state. Otherwise, I could jump up a weight class to 152 pounds and be ranked sixth place, with my odds against me, but I would open an opportunity for Will to wrestle at 145 pounds, something my coach disagreed with. Unable to understand my situation, my coach defiantly said, “Larry, you need to be selfish and worry about yourself.”

Giving Will a chance to wrestle was really important to me because it was his last year and he would not have a chance to compete again in high school. Growing up, my mother taught me about caring for others and to not give up when obstacles get in my way. When time came to make my decision, I confidently explained to my coach I would be wrestling at 152 pounds, and that I am not afraid of the challenge. In that moment, I could see the disappointment in his eyes, but I knew I was making the right choice.

Larry Sanchez speaks
Minneapolis Roosevelt junior Larry Sanchez reads his essay during ThreeSixty Journalism’s College Essay Boot Camp celebration at St. Thomas. (Photo courtesy of University of St. Thomas)

The morning of sections is a day I will never forget. Through school, all I could think about were my matches, about every scenario and how to prevent any mistakes. The night came and my heart was racing. The only thing keeping me from state was this match.

When I entered the gym, I gave a determined stare to my competition as we both stepped onto the mat. We shook hands firmly, but no words were exchanged because we both knew what was at stake. Everything I worked hard for would be tested in this one match.

As a result, I left with a gold medal that night, but what really made my night was that Will got fourth place despite starting the night ranked last place out of 12 schools. I was proud, stoked and thrilled as the referee raised Will’s arm in victory during his last match of his high school career.

Overall, this event in my life means a lot to me, not only because I went to state, but because I did not let obstacles stand in my way. A week later, I had my state tournament match, and in the crowd, I saw Will cheering me on. Seeing Will in the stands made my season great—because I made a decision that helped Will end his senior high school wrestling season on a high note.

It is important to me that I do not lose sight of what I believe in and that I can accomplish a challenge regardless of how far it pushes me. I proved this to my coach, Will and myself. Now I know that with hard work I can overcome obstacles and accomplish anything without changing who I am and what I believe.