dating apps better than tinder I imagine Ryan Franco’s introduction to wrestling parallels that of many young kids. They tune into USA, or back in my day it was Pay Per View events, and watch their favorite heroes jump off top ropes, throw clotheslines to the opponent’s neck, all kinds of flips and tricks and stunts. Long ago, the WWE took aim at the ole “Greatest Show on Earth” claim, once upon a time held by the traveling circus. Many factors contributed to the dwindling popularity of that particular production. Vince McMahon and his wrestling stuntmen were all too ready, willing, and able to step right in. It’s been one wild ride ever since.
lust in christian dating So, when the opportunity for four-year-old Ryan to go to a wrestling club (probably just to see how he would like it) presented itself, maybe he showed up with a cape and some face paint. As a parent I can sympathize with what must have been disappointing for him. No ropes. No referee counting to three. Just kids drilling. Learning. And then getting after it. Disappointment soon washed away, like a high tide that cleanses the shoreline. Debris gone. Fresh sand left to kiss the sky. And he, Ryan, fell in love.
It’s easy to fall in love with a sport, nee anything, when it comes easy to us. Wrestling came easy to young Ryan. “I only knew about 2 moves, but they always worked.” And then he worked. Elevating his game. Stepping up to meet the new challenges that come with age.
The first major test being the Spring of 2017. That’s where Franco managed to place 2nd at both cadet folkstyle and freestyle nationals. The first of those coming against Cleveland Belton (more on him later) and the second coming against Josh Saunders (Missouri) currently ranked 7th at 145. Tough competition has been the story of Franco’s career, continuing into high school.
Expectations are a funny thing. Set them too high, and you run the risk of discouragement. Set them too low, and you run the risk of indifference. Set them somewhere in the middle, well, this reminds me of that old Goldilocks story. Just right. The sweet spot. Where ability and potential meet opportunity and desire. With that being said, the expectations for Franco entering his freshman season were high, very high. And he would live up to them. All the way to the state finals. Where he would run into… Cleveland Belton. Again. The ever-elusive foe.
The cape buffalo to Francis Macomber. The giant whale to Captain Ahab. The human experience is undoubtedly littered with those cases where an adversary proves to have our number. Maybe that is Belton for Franco. It was Belton to capture that state gold and Franco would be held to runner up. Again, the bridesmaid.
The compelling thing about this sport is that it always allows for new opportunity. If you suffer adversity, you are in full control to come back stronger. When you lose, you almost always have a chance to avenge the loss. One of the biggest motivators for wrestlers as they train is to imagine their competition training even harder. It’s not good enough to train to be the best. You train to beat the best. The best in this case being Belton.
It’s five in the morning. Dark. He laces his shoes. Throws his hoodie over his head, finds Hit Em Up on the iphone, turns up the volume and hits the pavement. Running. As each stride hits, he sees a shot that went awry. He sees a whizzer that didn’t hold long enough. A sprawl just a split second too slow. He sees the attempted throws that resulted in landing on his own back. More shot attempts. Time runs out. Franco’s hand stays unraised. The crowd cheers. For someone else. He forces a faster pace. He runs angry. The neighbor out grabbing his paper waves. He doesn’t see him. A car swerves around the baby blue and black silhouette. He’s unmoved. But he’s moving. He moves to the beat of Tupac and dreams. All Eyes On Me and aspiration. Two, three, a hundred miles, it doesn’t matter, he’s back home. Maybe he grabs a banana, some oatmeal, some fuel. Then it’s off to practice.
The mat. Where a new freshman star, Joey Cruz, is training for his own state finals run at 120. At 126, Devin Murphy offers some unique looks, lots of movement. Franco is relentless. Run that back. Again. Again. Others like Zach Watts and Evan Almaguer provide even more looks, more work. More growth. He’s determined. And he’s at the right place. Clovis North.
The week is here. State finals. The climax to a season best described as impossible. Necessary. To beat the best, you must compete against them. That’s the Clovis North season. As a team, they dualed the #1, #2, #3, and #7 teams in the country. Not to mention, the rest of the Central Valley area. They went to Ohio for the toughest in-season tournament in the nation. They went to Clovis for Doc B. Where didn’t they go? Who didn’t they face? It might have been toughest of all for Franco.
The #1 team had the #1 wrestler at 132 (now ranked 2nd). The #2 team had the #4 wrestler at 132 (now ranked 3rd). It’s been the type of season, the quality of opponents, to get Franco ready. For Belton. For whatever. This week, it’s whatever. Belton suffered an injury early in the season and he decided to rest and recover. We wish him well. Franco wishes him well. “I’m a little disappointed to not be able to wrestle him this week. I was really looking forward to that match, as I’m sure a lot of people were. With that said, he has to get ready for the next level and I wish him a full recovery.”
In Belton’s place, Kyle Parco. A senior from De La Salle, Parco has had an impressive season, highlighted by capturing a Doc B cowboy hat. Unlike Belton, Parco is someone with whom Franco is not familiar at all. But that’s life. Sometimes the battles we train for and the tests we prepare for are not the ones we ultimately face. How do we proceed? How do we adapt?
Maybe for Ryan it’s instinct. That first day. Those early years. When he didn’t know much, but it just worked. He’s here to work. And put on a show.
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