At the time I was wrestling in the Greco Roman style and also doing some
submission tournaments as they came up. We just had our first child and had
moved back to Utah. Up to that point my wife and I had been living in Colorado
Springs, Colorado so that I could train in Greco Roman wrestling at the Olympic
Training Center. I had done rather well during the time we were there. I had
arrived as a nationally unranked athlete and quickly moved up to All American
finishes at the national tournament. I had moved up to a 4th place national
championships finish the year we had to make the difficult decision to leave the
It was tough. I had been steadily improving and moving up the ranks, with a
couple more years I feel that I could have possibly made some major
breakthroughs in Greco. However we felt like our place was home closer to our
families in Utah. It was nerve racking for many reasons. I had felt that I was
so close to getting to where I wanted to go in Greco but at the same time I was
still so far. All I knew was that I had a little family to take care of and that
it meant change for my athletic pursuits. I didn’t know how to digest it all
When we made it back to Utah I was fortunate enough to find work as a
landscape architect consultant working on a per-job contract basis with the
landscape architecture firm that I now work for full time. It was tough
financially and it was tough for me as an athlete. I was trying to support a
family, plus work, plus train as much as I could and continue to pursue Greco
Roman wrestling success. I had just left the best training situation I could
have possibly had and added tons of additional responsibilities to my plate.
The transition was tough. I had a limited number of training partners most of
which I had to teach how to wrestle Greco. The steady improvements that I had
been making as an athlete were beginning to stagnate and I was feeling like my
dream was slipping further and further out of my reach. Despite intense
fluctuations in performance and training I was able to repeat my 4th place
nationals finish the first year being back in Utah. It was enough to keep me
going in Greco but at the same time I could feel that unless I could get back to
the OTC my chances were decreasing day by day.
Financially we were a mess. My contract jobs were up and down and I wasn’t
making full time money. It was enough to keep us afloat but not much more than
that. I was incurring thousands in personal debt on credit cards not only for
competition expenses but for day to day living expenses. It was a brutal and
doubt filled time.
To supplement my Greco training the following year I increased my training in
grappling. There were just more opportunities to grapple, yet I was still
pushing as hard as I could to get to where I wanted to go in Greco. I was at a
crossroads in my athletic career. I really wanted to have success as a Greco
Roman wrestler. I had reached a respectable level and I wanted more. I could
also see that my potential may be greater in grappling. It was a time of
confusion and soul searching.
During this time my wife had become pregnant and we were excited to welcome
in a second child into our family. My wife and family were the ones that kept me
going forward. We began thinking more about the future and what another child
would mean. Working as a contract employee meant that we did not have health
insurance and that we would be faced with the costs of everything related to
child birth. My credit was running out and so was time to train like I wanted
Still we felt blessed that we would be having another child despite our
financial situation. We kept a positive outlook and hope in our coming baby.
Then just as things looked the darkest, they got darker. After about 3 months of
pregnancy my wife had a miscarriage and we lost the baby. We were both
devastated. It felt like we had slid into a pit and couldn’t find the way out.
Our hopes had been dashed and our spirits sunken.
Despite my lack of quality training and family hardship I competed at the
Greco nationals that year and finished in the top eight but not high enough to
get to the Olympic trials. It was very disappointing as I knew that I could have
punched my ticket at the nationals if I hadn’t lost a match that I should have
won. After I was unable to qualify for the trials I decided to leave Greco
behind and focus on grappling and family.
I was able to get picked up full time at the landscape architecture firm and
my attitude changed. I was able to see great potential in grappling and
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for myself. I was in great shape and took all of my training
knowledge and applied it to a serious study of grappling. Within a few months I
was competitive with the higher ranked students and instructors. My belt
promotions came relatively fast. I was promoted from a purple belt level to
brown belt within my first year of serious training. At that point the snowball
got rolling. I had success after success in grappling and BJJ and enjoyed every
second of it.
In spring I won the Pancrase world championships along with the title “King
of Combat Grappling”. I finished 3rd at the IBJJF Brazilian Jiu Jitsu world
championships that summer as a brown belt. That December I attained black belt
rank and then the week later I placed 2nd at the FILA Grappling world
championships. My wife had a successful full term pregnancy that brought happy,
healthy fraternal twins (a boy and a girl) to our family. We were so happy to
have their bright new lives become part of ours. What a year!
It was like the success I had always wanted was just on the other side of a
few critical decisions. I had to endure trying situations. I had to seek for my
own ideals of success and happiness. I had to let go of some previously very
powerful goals and embrace new ones. There were days where my own identity as an
athlete and a person were in question. This time in my life was like a refiner’s
fire that shaped and changed me into the athlete and person that I am today.
I was fortunate in finding the best sport for my personal abilities and
makeup. I was blessed to have a supportive wife who held on right along with me
and kept on believing that our lives would get better. We held onto hope for the
things we wanted out of life. Many days that was all we could do.
There are no guarantees that success will come. My wife and I could have just
as easily fallen on more disappointment and hard times. We could have given up
called it quits. We could have done any number of things that would have caused
different results. Now years later we are moving forward in life. It’s not
perfect. We still have struggles but we understand what it takes to get through
We all will go through hard times in this life. The secret to getting through
them is keeping a bigger perspective and a big hope in the future. We understood
exactly what we were going through and why we were going through it. We never
tried to hide or mask our situation into something that it wasn’t. We accepted
the reality of those hard times and pressed on anyway.
When you’re going through tough times keep going. Don’t stop in the middle of
it. Giving up reduces ability to trust yourself and will only add to your
Some days little steps are all you will be able to take. Other days you
might not feel like you’re taking any. Just keep going. Keep seeking for
solutions. Keep believing that life has great things in store for you. Be brave
and be willing to take the hits. Roll with the punches and keep your faith in
your future. As you endure the struggles life will see your efforts and will
start to open up to you. It may take some different turns and twists to get to
success but you will get it if you stick with it.
You can achieve greatness. You can reach your goals. Be strong. Believe.