The End of my World and the Start of a New One

Jackson Nielsen

Growing up, I felt like I was the Earth and the wrestling mat was my sun. Everything revolved around the sport of wrestling for me. I would be at the school late during the high school wrestling season, honing my craft and rarely seeing the sun on the short winter days when the sun set early. Outside of the high school season, I would make a 40 minute drive four times a week to Omaha to do club wrestling to further improve my skills on the mat. Not to mention the countless hours spent traveling to out of state tournaments to cement my name on the national scene. Wrestling was my life and I loved it dearly which is why I chose to further my athletic career into college. 

College wrestling took up more of my time when you take into account the morning workouts, afternoon workouts, film studies, and constant attention to my diet and weight in order to stay at the 125 lbs weight class. At first I was all in, loving the college wrestling grind and embracing the hardships that came with being a student athlete. But by my third year, something inside of me began to change, with it came feelings I was unfamiliar with. To top it off, I was faced with a season ending injury early into the season, a torn MCL, which put me on the sideline and left me with weeks of recovery and even more weeks of rehabilitation until I was back firing on all cylinders. 

As the fourth year of college athletics began, I realized I was no longer excited. The thought of dieting back down to 125 lbs, from my natural weight of 146 lbs, filled me with dread and anxiety. I was no stranger to this, as no one is a fan of cutting weight, but for me, this was different. I have struggled with healthily cutting weight in the past and I was at the point in my wrestling career where I was burnt out. I enjoyed the hard workouts and pushing myself mentally and physically is something I always loved about the sport of wrestling. But as soon as it came time to begin weight management, it felt as though a dark cloud had been cast over me at all times. It turned my mentality from enjoying workouts and trying to get better at wrestling, to just trying to lose as much weight as I could during practices. In my mind, the negatives outweighed the positives, and with much thought and consideration, I decided it would be best for me, both mentally and physically, to walk away from the sport.

Talking to the coaches was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do but I knew it was for the best. I was suddenly cast out from the world of athletics that I had known my whole life, to a world where I just went to class and did my own thing. Ultimately, I was more happy and looking back I know it was the right decision. But my life and my world had so suddenly done a complete 180 that it took a while to adapt to. Sometimes change can be a bad thing, but in this case, this change in my world was a saving grace.