What drives you?
Over the course of my athletic career I have been fortunate and blessed to
have associated with some of the world’s best coaches and athletes. I saw things
in each of them that influenced my own outlook, career and accomplishments as an
athlete. I have had the good fortune to be trained by Olympians and Olympic
champion wrestlers and by world champion grapplers and fighters.
Their drive and desire has always amazed me. I would like to tell you a
little about two coaches that influenced me the most in terms of creating a
vision of what is possible.
The first is Mark Schultz. Mark was the coach at BYU during my time there.
Mark was an inspiration to me because of what he had accomplished; NCAA
champion, World champion and Olympic champion in Freestyle wrestling. He had an
amazing presence when he came into a room and I’ll never forget the first time I
saw him. I was at a BYU summer wrestling camp the summer before my senior year.
I had never been around an Olympic champion before and he seemed to have an aura
of supreme confidence and power that I hadn’t seen before in any other athlete.
As I got to know Mark and had the opportunity to hear stories about him and
his late brother Dave, who was also NCAA champion, World champion and Olympic
champion, I got a sense of what was possible if a person were to really believe
that they could become a champion. The stories Mark shared about Dave and how
Dave was teased and picked on as a kid and then how he later became a champion
resonated with me. As brothers they were the perpetual “Steel sharpening Steel”
and they were always learning, pushing and doing whatever they could to become
more as athletes.
They did things that were absolutely crazy in order to test themselves and
overcome fear. Mark was a master of technique although to watch his wrestling he
seemed so simple, brutal and direct in his approach. I learned from him that
great technique is simple, brutal and direct. I absorbed as much as I could from
him and how he learned technique.
I built on these ideas I learned from Mark. At Mark’s suggestion I
started keeping a wrestling journal where I catalogued and took notes of every
technique that I learned. Today I have several volumes of techniques and
experiences as an athlete stored in my wrestling journals. Techniques I learned
from Mark are some of the most efficient and powerful in my arsenal. He will
always be the ideal of what following the path of the warrior means to me.
Next is US National Team Coach Steve Fraser. Steve was also an Olympic
champion. He won the first ever Olympic gold medal in Greco Roman wrestling for
the United States. Steve was a scrappy, tenacious and extremely strong willed
character. Through his strong faith and belief in his goal and his purpose he
defeated athletes both more credentialed and more talented on the way to his
There is no one I know that has a greater power to
envision the biggest most lofty goal possible and then tenaciously pursue it.
While I was training at the Olympic training center, Steve constantly
influenced us to believe in his mantra of becoming world and Olympic champions,
both as individuals and as a team. He set goals for the team that no other US
national team coach had set before; 7 medals and a team championship were his
constant high standards. He preached hard work, determination, sacrifice and
having big dreams day in and day out.
Some days it was hard to believe. They were so big and so lofty that often
they seemed like a mountain that the US team would never get over. I watched as
each year the team went back and forth through highs and lows. I wondered if
coach Fraser hadn’t taken on more than the US team was capable of accomplishing.
Then in 2007 after years of constant pushing and prodding and belief through
some of the darkest hours coach Fraser’s vision broke through and the US team
was finally crowned the champions of the world in Greco Roman wrestling. It was
the first and to date the only world team championship that the US has achieved.
I believe whole heartedly and unequivocally that it was won through Steve’s
belief and vision for the team that eventually won out. The athletes of course
deserve the credit for this amazing feat as well, but I believe that much of the
credit still belongs to Steve for the vision that he instilled in them.
My brother, Justin Ruiz, was one of the members of that 2007 Word
Championship team. I was extremely happy for the success of both the team and my
brother. Although I had never made a Greco world team and I had left the OTC
before 2007 I was proud of many of those athletes who I had known. I had seen
their struggles and saw that their vision had finally pulled them through.
What’s your vision? What is your driving force? Do you have goals of becoming
a champion? What vision will wake you up early and keep you up late in the
pursuit of its completion?
Because of the example of these two great athlete-coaches I have tried to
create big dreams and visions for myself. I have tried to follow their lead. I
encourage you to believe in big goals. Dream big dreams. Put in the work.
Find a way. Become the person and the champion that you truly want to become
because of it.