It was in a brief and unpleasant encounter that wrestling changed my life forever. By chance one summer Saturday night, I saw the UFC while flipping through channels and was hooked instantly. At 15 years old, I was devastated to learn I would not be able to afford to train mixed martial arts at any gym in the area. A close friend of mine and lifelong wrestler, seeing the opportunity to rope me in, convinced me to join our school’s wrestling team that upcoming season.
Growing up, sports never came easily to me. By all accounts I lost interest almost immediately and put no effort in. Going into my sophomore year of high school, I had no athletic background to speak of, and I was not in shape; the suggestion of a one-mile run would have given me a panic attack. If it weren’t for my complete ignorance of the sport, I would have never stepped foot in that wrestling room.
On that first day of preseason, I showed up with an empty head, a soft body and a pair of Adidas Combat Speed 3s. In the beginning, the room was crowded. I half-heartedly attempted the drills and exercises assigned with my friends, other first year wrestlers. The coaches and assistants were friendly and helpful, they showed patience for those with zero prior knowledge. It didn’t seem so bad, our coaches sold us on the promises of dodgeball warm ups, mid-season massages, and the recurring dream of home made apple cider on the fire pit.
In certain classes, there was always a calm period in the first month or so. The concepts may be new, but they’re simple and you feel safe. For me, it was math, and there’s always that cliff. One day things take a turn, you watch everyone else jog ahead while you struggle through the quicksand. About halfway through preseason, the workouts got harder. The technique became a little more complicated, the pacing of practices picked up. The coaches focused their attention on the athletes that could win.
In our room, it always seemed to me like it was sink or swim. I tried my best but was lost, so it was really more like “drown for 4 months until all the water evaporates.” I may have wrestled five matches that season, and I couldn’t tell you a single detail from the moment after we shook hands each time. In my very first match, my nose started bleeding before we even made contact. One time I made it to the quarterfinals of a JV tournament, I got a bye after my opponent didn’t make weight. The only thing keeping me from declaring myself the worst wrestler of all time is that I could usually fight enough not to get pinned. Even those early season promises were corrupted. Dodgeball was a hypercompetitive deathmatch, we were the ones administering the massages, and the apple cider was dense with woodchips.
At the end of the regular season, it seemed like all I had gained was a broken nose and a dented ego. Today I know that the old adage is true: “Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.” It doesn’t matter that I was horrible, I tried my best and I felt like I accomplished something when I was still there on that last day of practice after so many quit. One junior varsity high school wrestling season gave me the confidence that I could take on challenges, that the work has rewards, and now athletics are a major part of my life. I wasn’t afraid of the effort when I finally found my outlet for MMA the next year. I carried those hard learned lessons with me in everything I did from there on, it has made all the difference. Never stop improving; when you’re in a bad position, you keep fighting and you look for what’s next; a meaningful result is never easy, and always do your neck bridges. I’ll always support wrestling because of the impact it made from just one brief encounter. My experience was the furthest thing from successful, and yet I never learned such enduring, powerful lessons. I may not have been any good at all, but at least I can say I wrestled, so I will always be a wrestler.
Have you ever had something bad happen to you that turns out to have a positive effect on your life? I have had that experience so many times, I have stopped counting. Without a doubt, wrestling had had the greatest impact on my life.
If you were to meet me now, and I had never wrestled, my ideals and position on life would definitely be different from what I believe now. So what exactly have I learned from wrestling, it is just a high school sport, correct? Without knowing me, one would probably think that a sport could not have such a life altering effect on a person’s life. It is just a game you play and academics should be first and foremost, as we are often told. Since wrestling is not a highly regarded sport in Maryland, or in most Maryland high schools, wrestlers are often overlooked as committed athletes and the sport is misunderstood. When it comes to wrestling one always has to give more than their “best” to be successful.
When I first started wrestling at the age of 10 years old, I did not think much about pushing myself, and I lost, quite a bit, which made me hate the sport. Ironic how numerous negative experiences would mold me to the person I am now. Over the continued years of wrestling and losing, I managed to persevere in the face of failure. Something inside me told me that there had to be improvement with my constant effort.
As high school loomed before me, and a team that made cuts based on ability, I had to prove my worth. I was terrified that I would not make the team, and it was then that I realized there was more to me. I was a quiet and less social person before I began to push harder. I began to constantly work towards winning and proving to myself, and my coach, that I had what it took to be a team member and a positive contributor to my team.
With a new attitude toward my sport, I experienced more success, thus transferring to other areas of life and school subjects. Managing to turn all of the losses into something, which improved me as a person, I learned one of the most life changing things. I learned that if I give up, I cheat myself and my team and no one comes out ahead. As a part of the team, I had to be responsible for myself and answer to my teammates.
The second life changing thing I got out of wrestling is: if you go into a difficult situation, with a bad attitude, it is going to make that situation much worse. If I was to go into a tough workout, or have to compete against a friend, I would be assured a negative outcome had I not changed my thinking to where it is now. I know that everything is a mental game. By losing, time after time, when I had the physical ability to win, I let my fear of the opponent, or fear of doing something that will lead to failure, hold me back. Any doubt or fear greatly increased the chance of losing or failing and stopped me from doing my best. Now, I have a different perspective on things, all the time. I have changed because of the failures that led to my success in this sport and I have wrestling to thank for who I am today. All of this has helped shape me into a better student by making me hold myself accountable for my actions on campus and in class. I plan to continue with these ideals to help further my education as a student and further myself as a responsible individual.
Christian Currier, 1999 NCAA Champion
OK so here is my story, I started wrestling in a very small town in Montana! My father who was an undefeated wrestler himself (of two matches) thought it would be a great energy outlet for his three young boys (and daughter even though she didn’t technically wrestle). My father got engaged in youth wrestling and when I say engage I mean ENGAGED! We jumped in and jumped in with both feet. We went from the first season of hitting small local tournaments too full blow national travelers. My father was a very hard working Union Carpenter by day and wrestling FANATIC by night. Looking back I have no clue how in the world we afforded to drive to all of the tournaments but we did rain, snow, or shine we made it to tournaments all across the country. I cant even imagine all the hours we spent wrestling as a kid. One of the highlights of my life is winning the 1984 youth team state title (Large Team) even though my town (COLSTRIP MT) was populated with 4k people or less. This really put Colstrip on the map in Montana for wrestling. This also exposed Colstrip youth wrestlers to what was out there from a competition perspective. During the Montana youth state tournament Canada had a few kids show up and compete in our state tournament and this I think it what introduced a lot of coaches to National caliber wrestling. My father saw something special in his boys and well that and the fact that we rarely lost in the state of Montana, so he decided to go where we would lose and or at the very least get more competition. Somehow my father found out about regional and national competitions and when he did we found out that Montana was certainly not the Mecca of wrestling we had originally thought. Traveling I also found guys to look up to like Bill Zadick, Reece and Darren Andy, Burke Tyree, Bobby Young, and Justin Abdue from Canada! These guys were unreal and were absolute world beaters as HS kids when I was a youth wrestler. In my humble opinion they seriously opened the flood gates for us younger guys they competed at such a high level and this gave us younger guys the inspiration and belief that we could wrestle with anyone.
So regional and national tournaments exposed us young Colstrip Colts to the wide world of wrestling. I was fortunate to have such a determined & supportive father as well as a very competitive father. My father Jon Currier Sr. believed his boys could compete and beat the best in the country. This placed me in front of guys like Eric Guerrero (current ast. Coach for OKSU). I had the incredible honor of hitting Eric in the finals of Western Regionals in Gillete Wyoming I think I was 11, he was from Guadalupe California and they had a van full of kids or atleast it seemed like there were a lot of them because they were all hammers. I beat Eric and that’s when I honestly believed that I could compete with national level talent. I got the opportunity to wrestle in and win the AAU grand nationals the next year with guys like Isaac Woods in my bracket. After being beat a few times by his brother Oscar. I even told my father for father’s day that I would beat Oscar and I would have if we would have hit J because it was my gift for my father on father’s day, well that and I was promised a snowboard if I won the tournament lol Oscar was a a handful for sure. I did get the chance in Vegas that year and was up on him like 9-0 and he came back and beat me 20-9 son of a…… LOL I always had a ton of respect for the Woods boys tough family and very respectful family. OK enough about youth wrestling it gave me a chance to see what was out there and hit some of the Nations best youth wrestlers. I learned a ton about the sport and where it could bring me!
When I started HS my dream was to be a 4X state champion 6 people had done it and Bill Zadick was next in line my freshman year. He was an absolute terror and as technical as they come. I knew if I kept my mouth shut, ears open, and worked my butt off, I could do the same thing. I worked my tail off my freshman year and cut some weight to get to the 112 lb weight class. See I wanted to be above the 98lb weight class because I had once heard someone say "if you win as a freshman at the 98lb class then it really isn’t being a 4x state champion because your only wrestling freshman anyway" which is in no way shape or form true. So I had my hands FULL at 112 with a guy names Cody Gorder (national champion for Mary NAIA) who was ranked number 1 in my weight. We hit in the finals of the state tournament and I won (even after he absolutely destroyed me in the District Finals two weeks prior). I am not sure what happened but I had nothing to lose and he had everything to lose being a senior he went out cold and I went out hot. I beat him and beat him good with a large lead I pinned him in the finals. That was the start of something special! I went on to win 4 state titles and was the 8th person ever to do it. I was elated with my HS career, I was selected to compete at the Dapper Dan Classic for team USA where I was beaten by Whitey Chlebove UHHHGGGG I was not happy with my performance nor was I prepared for mr. chlebove. He was a hell of a lot tougher than I expected J I got into some trouble and division I offers were slim pickings but I knew I wasn’t done wrestling not by a long shot.
With my options limited, Brandon Eggum and I traveled to Colorado Springs Colorado for the Junior World trials. I got hurt during the tournament but met a man that would literally save my life. Doug Moses (current head coach of New Mexico Highlands University) He was the head coach at USC (southern Colorado NCAA DII) and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I signed my letter of intent while still in Colorado and now had the opportunity to chase yet another title. A NCAA title.
I enrolled in school and a few months later showed up in Pueblo Colorado! Doug Moses was a man who had been there and done that. He was Dan Gable’s best man and he had won the Tiblisi open in Russia one of VERY FEW men from America to do so! I admired him with every ounce of my being. He also beat my like a drum when I showed up for school. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. I think a part of me was done after I had accomplished my HS dream of being a 4X state champion, but I had so much left in the tank I continued. My freshman year I cut a ton of weight and had a rather disappointing season. I didn’t even qualify for the national tournament. I got third in the regional and they didn’t take freshman on wild cards even though I had beat the number one ranked guy that year. My freshman year was full of ups and downs. Mostly downs and I attribute that to the huge cut to 134. I came to college weighing around 155 and wasn’t a fat guy by any stretch I was built like gumby. I met the love of my life and got married at the ripe old age of 18. She was a huge part of me growing up and refining my goals. Anyway after a tough freshman season I decided to redshirt and get bigger which I did. I got up to 184 lbs and still wasn’t fat. I cut down during my redshirt season to 150 and had a decent redshirt season. The next year I got back to business and found something I was missing I found the fire to be number 1 again. I didn’t do what I wanted my sophomore season placing 7th at the NCAAs but I did realize I was having fun again and with my wife by my side I was starting to get focused again. I also realized I was a bit of a showboat and having a one person fan club was absolutely amazing J My wife and I put a plan together and I started working harder and harder. I made the finals of the NCAA national tournament as a junior and I was absolutely destroying my guy in the finals until he shot in and I went to chin whip which I had done a million times and “POP” I felt a huge burning sensation in my side and I couldn’t breathe, I gave up the takedown which made the score 13-3. I winced in pain as the ref stopped the match the trainer came a running. I was on the big stage in front of my home crowd I had buddies from HS and parents and in laws in the stands no way was I stopping. The trainer said you have to stop you have broken your ribs. I had a rib sticking out of my side and I told the ref I am down all I have to do is stay off my back, he said ok and said “get set” I shuttered as I got in referees position and Troy Sizdel (sp?) tight wasted as soon as the whistle blew and I let out a war hoop heard by all! The ref stopped the match and I lost a dream! I sobbed all the way to the hospital. It was the day that changed my life! I will never forget it. I got the hospital and they x-rayed only to find two broken ribs they could do nothing about. I made my way back to the tournament to receive my award. They presented awards and the entire time I was on the stand all I could think was it should be me on the top of this damn thing. Troy being a true wrestler and champion raised my hand on the NCAA Championship podium. I was honored in front of my home crowd and with tears in my eyes but I knew I had fallen short. To make a really long story a bit shorter I healed up in about 6 weeks enough to get back to work. This was IT my senior season I spent the entire summer working out with a chip on my shoulder. Nothing was going to take my title away this year! I spent countless hours working in the wrestling room and on the road and where ever and whenever I could get a work out in. I was absolutely determined for the first time since I had gotten to college. My wife bless her soul supported me and was my absolute ROCK! She made everything possible for me, see she had already graduated and this was my 5th year in college and I was purely focused on wrestling and my wrestling dream and so was she! During that summer I had heard some rumblings of a guy transferring to Carson Newman in TN. His name was Lazaro Reinoso he was from Cuba and had beaten John Smith (one of my heros) in the Olympics. I had to assume he would be my weight but it didn’t matter like a true wrestler I felt sorry for him because it was my title he was not getting it! Once again I had the incredible opportunity to wrestle one of the best in the world, the first time we met was at the national duals. I had never in my life wrestled a guy so explosive and technical. I was a technical wrestler and he had an answer for everything I threw at him. I thought I would ride the piss out of him and turn him because he was a freestyler and I was now a NCAA wrestler. Well I was wrong he got away and we went into double OT. He came away with the win and I went back to the drawing boards. Now for the first time in the season I was worried. I felt like God had threw me a insurmountable problem and I was yet again going to have to settle for second place. I refused to let this stop me, I worked harder and focused more on my feet. It was my destiny to win a NCAA title. I made it through the rest of the season healthy and having fun. I had beaten most people handily until I made it to the semi finals of the NCAA tournament. I faced an opponent I respected immensely he was from Pitt Johnstown, his name was Isaac Greeley, he wrestled just like me. I had watched him the year prior and thought thank goodness he at 134 because he would give me fits. I knew it would be a tough match but I had no idea how tough. We went into overtime and he did everything right and should have won the match he should have had his hand raised but I didn’t stop wrestling he was in deep on a takedown and I did enough moving to confuse the ref and no two was given. I made it out of the takedown and somehow scored on Isaac to win the match. I still to this day feel in my heart that Isaac won that match and should have gotten the opportunity to wrestle Lazaro in the finals. I had to overcome the fact I should have lost in my semi final match (so sorry Isaac) and wrestle in the finals. The feeling is something I will never forget, before the finals match the nerves and overwhelming excitement got to me. I had tears in my eyes as they called my name to the raised mat. I knew this was my final match. I knew that this was IT! I had trained and prepared since I was 4 years old for this moment. This was my last opportunity to impress a man I idolized, this was a chance to make my father happy, my mother my wife and my mother and father inlaw were in the stands. This was in Omaha Nebraska and was my last dance. I had never in all my years felt the way I felt for this match. It was an absolute rush, it was like I was wrestling for every person who had ever helped me during my 18 years in the sport. Across from me was a bronze medalist in the Olympics a man born to do the sport, who had been trained by some of the worlds best coaches, a man who had represented his country and laid his life on the line for the sport of wrestling. But the title was mine I didn’t question it. I knew God was in my heart and I knew I had nothing to lose. I had done everything in my power to get me here and I knew win, lose or draw the people who loved me would still love me in the end.
The match started, we were both conservative and the first period was boring (not to us but to the fans). Lazaro was beating me through the second period scoring two or three takedowns. I was behind by 5 points I believe in the third period and I didn’t panic, I had a feeling I would come out on top, so I stayed patient. I looked over at the clock with 27 seconds left and thought crap I am going to have to do something big. Lazaro was tired and I could feel a difference in his wrestling. He had a relatively big lead but had been hit for stalling we both had. So in order to avoid being hit again he took a lazy shot to hold on and run the clock down. When he shot he kept his elbows high and his hips were placed over his feet he had no support behind him, I threaded my arms under his when he had shot his double. I blew up, with every ounce of strength I had in my body I took off running my feet he started fading backward and I turned the corner and as I turned the corner I moved one arm from under his arm to around his head and neck. As I moved my arm to his neck the other arm was lifted high to take him over using his high arm. I drove as hard as I could until he exposed his back. I squeezed with every ounce of strength and held him on his back, the clock meanwhile was at 8 seconds when he hit his back, I knew I was down on points so in my mind I had to pin for the win. I heard the ref move around my head to get a better angle on the pin and I heard the whistle blow. I had won, I had done the impossible, I had beaten the unbeatable, I had realized my dream, I got to stand on the podium on the very top of the podium. Even though this match was probably one of my worst technical matches in my college career I had won and in my heart the only reason I won that day is because I never stopped believing I would win. Even after getting my ass kicked for three periods I felt I could win. Even though he was the better wrestler that day I had the bigger heart. I was a national champion. From Colstrip Montana, from the Currier Clan I was a national champion.
Now one would think this is the end of the story right, well I am here to tell you this is only the beginning. After my focus was redirected from wrestling to life I earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering and have focused on my family whom I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for the sport of wrestling. With a wife I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for the sport of wrestling, with a degree I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for the sport of wrestling. This sport has not only given me everything I have today it has defined me as a man. Through the years I have travelled across America in a 1960something motorhome, I have been to Russia for 5 weeks, I have met the world’s most amazing people and have had the incredible opportunity to pass the love on to my son for this sport. I continue to follow the sport of wrestling and man do I miss it! I honestly think it was harder to stop wrestling and competing than anything else I have ever done! Not being the center of attention and not being in the spot light was hard, so hard in fact I searched in all the wrong places for attention. I have had to deal with emotions and feelings that I had no idea were going to be there, but again long story short the sport of wrestling created me as a man and saved me as a man and most importantly showed me how to be a servant to God and to the sport that has showed me so much about life. I thank you Wrestling for providing me the most important things in life: my entire wrestling family an amazing wife, an unbelievable son and absolutely wonderful daughter! Thank you wrestling for given me a life that no other sport could have!