After five years of losing seasons, eighth grade wrestler David Wilson has turned his wrestling career from a series of frustrating losses into something quite different: a 15-3 record this season and a spot in the Liberty Nationals Tournament on Feb. 25. However, despite his newfound success on the wrestling mat, 14-year-old Wilson has his priorities.
Saturday, Wilson forfeited the Jefferson City tournament so he could participate in the “30 Hour Famine” — a worldwide youth movement to fight hunger. As a part of the fast, youth across the nation raise funds for World Vision—a Christian humanitarian organization that fights poverty and injustice here in the United States and around the world.
In the past three years Wilson has become increasingly involved with the youth group at Alive In Christ Lutheran Church. So when his youth group’s participation in the Famine conflicted with the Jeff City Tournament, Wilson decided to forfeit, which he will tell you from experience is the worst part of wrestling—the losing.
“He’s not been one who’s had a winning season,” said Mike Wilson, who described his son’s wrestling career as “progressing.” He has never missed a match since his son began in the second grade and can see the change in his son’s wrestling.
Wilson has been with coach Mike Flanagan and the Columbia Wrestling Club since last year and currently wrestles at 205. “He’s just a big kid and a good athlete for his size and height,” Flanagan said. But, what Wilson will say is that he’s never been a winning wrestler, until now.
Wilson credits his new coaches for most of his successes this season, but Flanagan said it is Wilson’s commitment and good work ethic that have made him a new wrestler.
“He shows up ready to compete; he has a great attitude,” Flanagan said. “He wrestles the coaches in practice because there aren’t any kids his size in our club. The next biggest kid in the club is 160.”
For the past year and a half, Wilson, 14, has been consistent in size, so what turned his wrestling career around was a change in attitude. “I was getting tired of losing,” he said, “I finally wanted to start winning and started caring.”
Halfway through the fast, Wilson said he would have preferred to be on the mat instead of starving, but he knew what he was doing was the right decision.
“I’ve gone 48 hours before without eating for sports,” Wilson said, “but I didn’t want to do it [the Famine] for sports. Jesus fasted when he was on earth, and I think that I should do it too. He died on the cross for us, so if he can give up that much, I can fast.”
The loss on Saturday was Wilson’s choice. His dad, Mike Wilson, said in the past three years his son has become very strong in the life of Christ.
“He’s doing this [the Famine] for fasting and prayer,” he said. “He’s more devoted to God.”
Flanagan was supportive of the wrestler’s decision and said his forfeit did not affect the team’s outcome in the tournament.
“His involvement with his church is high on his list of priorities,” said Wilson’s coach, Mike Flanagan. “He sometimes leaves practice early to go to youth group.”
In kindergarten Wilson’s father encouraged him to start wrestling, but it wasn’t until second grade that he decided it was time to have something to do to keep his momentum up during the winter. His main sports are baseball and football at Jeff Junior High School.
Next year at Rock Bridge High School, Wilson plans to continue all three sports but knows when it comes down to choosing between sports or his involvement at AIC, it’s going to become a more difficult balancing act.
“I know how the coaches are,” he said, “so depending on when practices are, I’ll probably have to miss youth group on Wednesdays, but if it’s running extra laps because I miss practice, I can handle that. If it’s miss practice and get kicked off the team, that’s different.”
Though his record has three losses, he talks about his first loss this season.
“I wanted to quit,” he said thinking back on his defeat. He said after that loss he thought his wrestling season would become like those before, but after watching the video, he saw he lost because of his mistake.
“The other kid wasn’t better,” Wilson said. “It was me.” He went back to practice on Monday and Wednesday and worked on one move—the one that cost him his perfect record.
“I couldn’t even walk when I got home,” he said.