The 2019 Senior Perspectives is the 14th in a series of annual collections. Senior captains and representatives of teams at Harvard have been invited to contribute viewpoints based on personal experience from both their senior seasons and full varsity careers at Harvard.
I began my wrestling career relatively late in my life, at the age of fifteen. Initially, I hated the sport. It was exhausting, painful, and oftentimes not too much “fun.” However, I quickly realized that wrestlers were a different breed of human. And I wanted in on this elite community. Eight years later, I look back at this journey with an indescribable sense of gratitude for shaping the man I am today, and especially thank Harvard wrestling for teaching me the painful, but crucial life lessons you can’t learn outside of those four walls of the wrestling room.
Wrestling is a simple sport. Two warriors enter the arena of public spectacle. One wins and one loses. You have nobody to rely on but yourself. There are no teammates to pass the buck to and nobody to watch your back when you falter. When you step out and toe the line, you, and only you, are responsible for the pain of your defeat or the elation of your triumph. It is this that breeds an unparalleled work ethic and sense of accountability in those who decide to subject themselves to the brutality of this sport.
Though you enter the ring by yourself, you are not alone. You are backed by 25 of your brothers and a coaching staff who pours their hearts and souls into you to ensure you are putting forward your best even when it may seem impossible. The community that I have experienced has been one of my closest support groups, full of driven, quirky, and hardened individuals who are dedicated to being “uncommon amongst uncommon people.” You embark on a collective mission and hold each other accountable to ensure that each person is committing themselves to personal betterment in the wrestling room, classroom, and all other areas of life. In fact, the Harvard Wrestling mission is to enter with a love of wrestling and to leave with an appreciation and preparation for life.
What I have come to learn about wrestling is that it is about much more than wins and losses. More importantly, it is about the process of self-discovery, the hard lessons you learn along the way and how you implement those lessons to make a positive impact on the world around you. I will never forget the late nights of running on the treadmill trying to lose 12 pounds in two days, thinking about how it would be much easier to quit, but continuing nonetheless because nothing worthwhile in life comes easy. The memories of being completely numb two minutes into our seven-minute sprint during the first day of preseason, but having no option but to put your head down and suffer through it, will forever be entrenched in my mind. And of course, the thrill and anxiety of stepping across from your opponent to go to war will be something that nothing in this world will ever compare to. It is through moments like these that you come to truly understand what it means to sacrifice, show resilience, and beat down the demons in your head that ever told you that anything in this life is impossible.
I will be forever indebted to coach Weiss for taking a chance on me and providing me with this life-changing opportunity. I also would like to thank my family for being my core support these past four years. They have been right there with me through my highest of highs and lowest of lows and have always offered an unwavering support. Most importantly, I want to thank God for guiding the experiences of my life and blessing me with the opportunity to cross paths with all of the amazing people I have encountered through the sport of wrestling. And to my brothers in Harvard wrestling, thank you. Keep fighting the good fight and continue to make this program proud.
My time with wrestling is up, but for the rest of my life, I will have the immense privilege of saying, “My name is Matt Rodriguez, and I am a Harvard wrestler.”