The buzzer sounded, the referee blew his whistle, and the match ended. In that instant, a tsunami of emotions began to wash over and the realization that the long season was over started to set in. After shaking hands with my opponent and his coaches, I slowly walked back to my coaches with my head hanging in disappointment. Everything I had worked so hard for felt like it had slipped out of my grip.
With shaking hands and trembling legs fraught with exhaustion, I made my way to the back corner of the arena, laid down on my back, and began to cry. The feeling was overwhelming and debilitating. As I laid there, I reflected on the immense feeling of failure that persisted within me. How could I have let this happen? Everything I had sacrificed and striven to accomplish that season, gone to waste in a matter of minutes. Yes, I had managed to earn a medal, but there was little consolation in knowing it was as good as the last place. I didn't feel deserving; instead, I felt lucky, and that made the defeat even worse.
Later that night during the medal ceremony, my name was called first and for a moment, I felt a twinge of pride. However, once everyone else was standing on the podium, I realized that I was the only one who had to stand on the floor. That small feeling of pride was instantly replaced with embarrassment and shame.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the other medal-winners smiling and reveling in their achievement. My dulling sadness was again replaced by something new: a newfound sense of determination. I remember looking up to the ceiling and swearing to myself that next season would be different. Next season, I would stand on that podium no matter what.
Every wrestler dreams of winning a state championship, but few ever see that dream realized. I was one of those dreamers; training and grinding every single day in hopes of seeing it come to fruition. In the end, although I did not achieve that dream, I did achieve something perhaps even more important.
My junior year, I placed sixth in the wrestling state championships and had to stand on the floor next to the podium. My following senior season, I held true to my promise and placed fifth. While a one place increase doesn't seem like much, it made all the difference in the world.
Sometimes, we cannot accomplish the large goal we so hoped to, but we can take what we come away with and turn it into something more meaningful. Everyone wants to succeed, and if a person finds a way to achieve a little more each day, than every measure of success can be found. Determination is simply the difference between standing on the floor and standing on the podium.