The following post was a post I wrote for College Wrestling Recruiting, a service that helps high school wrestlers with the college admissions process. As such, it’s a little heavy in the wrestling terminology. However, mentorship is also a concept that is in line with our principle of doing more with less, so I decided to repost it here too.
Creed: The Fight
In arguably one of the most powerful scenes in the movie Creed, you can see an incredible relationship between a mentor and a mentee in full display.
Adonis (Rocky refers to him as “Donny”) Creed had just been knocked down by his opponent, “Pretty” Ricky Conlan. A serious right hook left Donny motionless on the canvas. Conlan’s fans cheer loudly.
“Donny, get up!”
Donny lies motionless on the canvas as the referee starts the count. After a series of flashbacks including one in which he saw his own father (Apollo Creed), he gets up off the canvas like a man possessed. Still, he seems out of it. He can’t seem to hold his own in the ring against Ricky anymore. Donny is saved by the bell and the two fighters go back to their corners.
Rocky takes a look at Donny and makes a judgment call. “I’m gonna stop this thing.”
“I should’ve stopped this if I were your father. I’m stopping this one now.”
“Don’t, okay? Let me finish! I gotta prove it.”
“That I’m not a mistake.”
You could see the look in Rocky’s eyes. The subtle shift in facial expression showed deep understanding and empathy. He understood that Adonis Creed had a serious need to prove himself. He wanted his life to have meaning. He deeply wanted to be significant, and he most likely needed the kind of love you see between father and son. Within a split second, Rocky understood that there was more at stake than just a boxing match.
A Parallel in Wrestling
Sometimes, living to fight another day isn’t worth it especially when you’re fighting for something that matters so much to you. This is an unavoidable idea when you hang around combat sports for long enough. You see this in full display in J Jaggers’ 2008 NCAA national finals match when he broke his ankle and still chose to finish the match. The same year, in Mark Perry’s 2008 NCAA national finals match, he broke his knee and still continued to wrestle. They both finished the matches as NCAA champions. Some things are worth putting your life on the line for, and good mentors understand this. No person in an ordinary state of mind would have let the match continue, especially with such an injury. However, there are some moments in life that go down in history, and denying someone the chance to fight in those moments could haunt them for the rest of their life. All of a sudden, an injury becomes insignificant. The coach or the mentor tells the fighter to keep going because they, too, see the significance in those moments. They get it.
Mentors matter in your life for this reason. They understand. They’ve been there. In many instances, a mentor will enrich your life in a way that you wouldn’t have been able to do on your own. Additionally, in rare cases, an incredible mentor can sometimes blur the line between mentor and family. Almost every single great mentor in my own life has blurred that line, and I’m grateful to them for having done so.
From a practical standpoint, mentors matter too. It’s a great opportunity to receive good training (this can be applied on and off the mat). You get to take advantage of years of wisdom, personal experience, and learning from their mistakes.
Mentors help you rethink what’s possible. After World and Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs broke his ankle in a training camp leading up to the 2013 World Championships, the first person to fully believe that he was still capable of winning the championships was his coach, Mark Manning. Sure enough, Jordan Burroughs proceeded to win the World Championships that year with plates and screws in his ankle. Unbelievable.
Mentors help you develop strengths. For example, undefeated 4-time NCAA champion and 2004 Olympic champion Cael Sanderson was known for his ankle pick. Everyone knew it was coming and still couldn’t stop him from attacking. Interestingly enough, eight years later in London, Jake Varner was in the Olympic finals. Coaching him from the corner was his long-time coach, Cael Sanderson. Coincidentally (but not surprisingly), one of Jake Varner’s two scoring sequences in that match was also an ankle pick . Mentors matter.
The Final Round
Understanding what this fight meant to Donny, Rocky decides to let the fight continue. Not only does he let the fight continue, he encourages it. In fact, he reminds Donny that Donny has helped him in his own fight against cancer.
“Look at me. I never got a chance to thank Apollo for helping me out after Mickey died, but it’s nothing compared to what you’ve done. You taught me how to fight again and I’m gonna go home and I’m gonna fight this thing, but if I fight, I want you to fight too. I want you to go across this ring, and I want you to knock this son of a bitch down. Can you do it? Say it.”
Creed looks across the ring to Ricky Conlan before looking back at Rocky. He nods. “I’m gonna knock that son of a bitch down.”
“I know you are. You know why? Because you’re a Creed and I love you, kid. Come on.”
Adonis Creed proceeds to get up and fight one hell of a final round. I won’t spoil the movie for you if you haven’t watched it, but it was inspiring.
Who are the mentors in your life? Who will you look to for mentorship?
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