It’s not unusual for mainstream sports fans to dismiss swimming and wrestling as repetitive and uninteresting, unless it’s the Olympics.
But those who love those sports are some of the most driven, most passionate athletes you will ever meet.
I’ve had the privilege of watching some of our top local high school swimming and wrestling talent at their respective meets over the past few days and although I have no personal background in either sport, I have tremendous admiration for what they do and who they are.
Take high school swimming, for example.
It has the longest season of any high school sport in Utah, beginning with the first practices in early October, competing in their first meets starting at the beginning of November and then competing for the next three and a half months.
These young men and women spend dozens of hours per week churning through the water, striving to be a little faster, to improve their technique.
Wrestlers may not have the constant drag of water but face other resistance — namely other individuals.
These boys (and a few dedicated girls) spend their time pushing their bodies to the limit as they compete against each other.
Anyone who thinks either swimming or wrestling is easy should have to follow the regimen of one of these athletes for a week. I doubt most people — myself included — would last a day.
My favorite part, however, is how these high school students take two sports that are basically oriented around individual performance and make them all about team success.
Sure, the most gifted boys and girls focus on being the best and often come away with the personal satisfaction of being individual state champions.
The vast majority of participants, however, are there simply to do what they can for both themselves and their team.
Neither the Pleasant Grove wrestling team nor the American Fork girls swimming team had a group of superstars this year. The Vikings had two individual state champions while the Cavemen had just one.
Yet the dozens of other competitors who gave everything they had for the last few months to be as good as they could be turned out to be the heroes as both Pleasant Grove and American Fork won state championships because of their depth.
I love being at the UCCU Center for wrestling or this year at the South Davis Recreation Center for swimming and hearing the passion and excitement of the teammates of the athletes competing.
Whether the whistles and waving at the pool or the constant advice and encouragement to the wrestlers on the mat, it is always clear just how much these kids care about the good of their peers and friends.
I love how they also root for their community as well.
At the 4A state swimming meet on Saturday, the biggest cheer of the day came from the entire audience as Snow Canyon junior Amber Graves made her way down the home stretch.
You see, Graves has Down syndrome and to this point there are no high school opportunities at state for individuals like her. Many in the swimming community are hoping to change that and use the hashtag #LetThemSwim to express their desire for change.
Graves wasn’t the fastest swimmer at the meet but her courage and desire were honored by everyone in attendance.
I have also loved seeing the support in the wrestling community for female competitors like American Leadership’s Sage Mortimer. My experience has indicated those who love the sport respect any athlete who is willing to step on the mat and face an opponent.
I’m not here to try to convince anyone to fall in love with wrestling or swimming. Honestly, those who love those sports don’t need others to change to feel the same way.
But I firmly believe that these boys and girls deserve everyone’s respect for who they are and for what they do.
I want to say congratulations to all of Utah Valley’s swimmers and wrestlers on completing another fantastic year of competition.