Meet Coach Andy Oberlin

Meet Andy Oberlin

Wrestling, in my experience, is one of the most humbling and fulfilling sports one can undertake. Anyone that has wrestled can easily tell you why wrestling is humbling. It is you and your opponent and when you get beat there is only one person that can truly explain the reason for your failure, and that person is the reflection looking back at you in the mirror. This quickly makes you look inside yourself and realize if you want to be better you have to put the work in. The fulfilling part of wrestling is the more difficult emotion to grasp and unfortunately, there are many former wrestlers out there that still may not fully grasp it. As a person that has been focused on wrestling for around 35 years I know it wasn’t until recently that I began to fully realize what has drawn me to the sport, what it does for wrestlers, and truly just how strong the correlation is between wrestling and life.

Like many, growing up I looked up to my older brother and wanted to do whatever he did. The town we grew up in had a single stoplight and was extremely small. At that time Northeast Indiana was doing great wrestling-wise and so was the school in our town. We didn’t have the most stable childhood, our parents divorced, and we moved around a lot. My brother’s freshman year of high school he was living in Ohio with some relatives and made the varsity wrestling team. I got to watch him wrestle and my immediate thought was, “I am going to do that one day.” Unfortunately my brother wasn’t able to complete his high school wrestling career. I didn’t know it at the time, but the combination of my brother wrestling for a short time and the little town I grew up in having pride in wrestling would eventually be what made me who I am, and probably saved my life. When I was younger my brother made me fight the local kids frequently, so I grew up thinking fighting was the way and I was pretty good at it for a little guy. I spent more time in the principal's office than any kid I knew and got kicked out of school a few times. The only focus I had was getting good enough grades so I could wrestle in 6th grade. But before I got the chance my family moved to Detroit for most of my 6th grade year, which is a whole story on its own. We eventually moved back to the town we started in, but after wrestling season was done for the year. Before my 7th-grade year I moved with my dad in another town not far away and my brother and sister continued living in the small town.

The new town was bigger and basketball was king. I immediately didn’t fit in. To say I was a small middle schooler is an understatement, so all sports were off the table except wrestling. The part of me that wanted to fight got focused into wrestling energy and aggression. I only lost one match during my 7th and 8th grade years and that was because I locked hands too many times. This helped me fit into my new school and I started making friends. The winning streak quickly went away when I started high school. I made varsity my freshman year and barely had a winning record in the smallest weight class, and I definitely took my lumps. My turning point was a match where a wrestler had me on my back with a headlock and looked down at me and said “what's the matter tired sissy” right before he pinned me. This is where the humbling part of wrestling comes in because there was nothing I could do other than shake his hand after he pinned me and reflect on what just happened. That pride I had in my middle school success was gone and I told myself about the loss, “That isn’t happening again.”

That summer I went to everything I could in the offseason and all I could hear repeatedly in my mind was "What’s the matter tired sissy?” and that gave me energy and motivation. From sophomore through my senior year I only had 10 losses with 7 being to eventual state champions. Like most wrestlers, I ended my high school career on a sad note; I missed getting under the lights of the state finals by 1 second. After high school I wrestled a year in D3 and had quite a bit of success, but my past caught up to me and I wanted to have fun and party, which caused me to drop out of college.

Barely missing my high school goals and dropping out of college took its toll on me. I wasn’t in a good place, I was getting into some trouble with the local police, and was headed in the wrong direction. Around this time my old high school coach called me up and asked me to come help coach his son. This started to help me heal as a person and was when I found my understanding and true love for the sport. I began to realize that my coach was right when he would always say. “It is not about the destination it is about the journey”. That small sentence couldn’t be more loaded. When I looked back at my life I realized wrestling taught me how to lose gracefully, how to work hard towards a goal, how to channel and control my anger, how to accept true disappointment, and how to keep grinding. Those things were crucial for a kid with broken family life and unending inner anger.

For the longest time it was hard to fully understand why this sport kept drawing me in. Why did I love it so much when many times it just disappoints me and others that choose it? After many years of coaching, I started to realize that when you combine hard work, high emotions, and intensity you have a perfect recipe for growth and becoming a better person, and this lesson comes from both wins and losses. It took a while for me to realize that as far as wrestling goes I wasn’t anything special and neither are most wrestlers and that is perfectly okay. Too many times we want to dwell on our losses or the disappointments of our past and we want to reminisce on what could have been. The bottom line is those feelings aren’t anything unique and probably neither were you in the wrestling world but the lessons the sport gives you cannot be measured. Those losses and disappointments are what helped shape who you are as a person. As a coach, my goal is to help give my wrestlers the tools to be successful in wrestling so that they can see that hard work can pay off. Many times the most important lessons are learned from their losses and how we respond to them. For me, if I look back and ask myself, “If I would have made the state finals in high school and won, where would I be now? Would I have become a coach? Would I have an intelligent beautiful wife? Would I have my healthy loving kids? Would I have graduated from college? Would I have a great career? More importantly, would I be a person that people can trust and rely on?” My answer is, “It doesn’t matter.” I am happy with where I am at in life and I know wrestling and the grace of God helped put me here.

When I had my first child 12 years ago and I found out he was a boy I had immediate visions of him being a state champion. As my wife and I have attempted to raise him and his 2 brothers the best we can I began to throw away the visions of raising state champions. More important than state champions I want to raise good human beings that understand the value of work and how to grind through things. I believe that wrestling is truly a pure vehicle for this and one I understand. As I type this I think of my neighbor kids, 2 brothers. The oldest will be a senior in high school next year. I have watched him and his brother grow up. When we moved in next to them they were die-hard baseball players but soon became wrestlers. I now have the honor of coaching them during their high school careers. The oldest has a legitimate shot at going to state next year, but honestly, if he doesn't I won’t be disappointed. Yes, I want it for him and it would be great to be a part of it. However, the best goal has already been attained; he is a good kid that knows what hard work and what the grind is, and that makes me proud of him. No matter what happens he will have a solid foundation because of what his family and wrestling have given him. To me, that is the main thing that I want for my own kids and for any kids I coach.

Over the past 25 years of coaching I know I have helped coach some wrestlers that still look back at wrestling as a disappointment and where goals were missed. My hope is that someday they will come full circle, as I feel I have, and realize it was the journey that mattered and the journey’s lessons are what’s truly fulfilling. None of us are perfect but wrestling can definitely help us be better people. This particular quote by Theodore Roosevelt I feel sums many things up for me.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

See you on the mat!

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Located in Fort Wayne's Gateway Plaza about three minutes from I-69.

(877) 848-3678
1519 Goshen Road Fort Wayne 46808

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