Wrestling: As a Rite of Passage
All over the world, in populations throughout history and still today, we see many different forms of what is called a rite of passage. Almost every culture has some form of a rite of passage. Though the actual test varies, it is the internal experience of the individual that is similar. Rites of passage require the individual to endure physical and psychological pain, and to accept a higher level of responsibility for one’s own life and personal development.
The consistent usage of rite of passage rituals across cultures and many ages demonstrates that this is not a short-sighted cultural phenomenon but rather an archetypal phenomenon. It is a necessary step in the development of humans, a need as old as the human race that has been buried into the psychology of the our spirit.
We have the desire to challenge ourselves, to see what we are really made of. We want to earn the right to become a greater version of ourselves and to take on the responsibility of our own personal growth. Testing ourselves by living out these challenges is one of the surest outlets to greater psychological and personal strength.
For our guys, I think wrestling is one of those rites of passage. I am not saying that wrestling in college is the only portal into manhood or adulthood. I believe this developmental step applies to all genders. But it seems clear that the rite of passage that has been offered to these individuals, our wrestlers, comes in the form of college wrestling. It is a venture that will expose them to countless mental and physical challenges. It will bring them to their limits. They will have to overcome, to endure and change. They will have to be courageous enough to look failure, discomfort and uncertainty in the eyes and step toward these dark places again and again.
I hope that as we look at this season and the careers of these individuals we see not only wrestling matches, but the incredible process of human development unfolding in each one of these young men. And with this understanding we see that wrestling is much more than just a sport.