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Fail your way to the top


Kyle Clayton / Petersburg Pilot

Wrestling Hall of Famer Wade Schalles teaching a wrestling camp in Petersburg last week.

Wrestling Hall of Fame member Wade Schalles taught a wrestling camp in Petersburg last week. Schalles won four NCAA Championships, is registered in the Guinness Book of World Records as having the most pins and wins of any wrestler and won 15 national championships in five different disciplines.

And according to Schalles, he would not have earned those accolades if he hadn’t failed. He just never failed twice. Schalles related an anecdotal conversation between himself and a student. We’ll call him Johnny.

“How many times did you get taken down,” Coach Schalles asked.

“12 times,” Johnny said.

“That a boy Johnny,” coach said.

“What?” Johnny asks.

“You figured out 12 different ways that that way is not going to work,” the coach replied.

More important than moves like the Crimson and Granby Roles, although he taught Viking Wrestlers those and more, he ingrained the principle of ‘never losing twice’. Schalles said it’s an idea his mother taught him and a lesson he knows all too well. Schalles, still in high school, was wrestling an NCAA runner up.

“I was behind him, we were both standing and I picked him up to bring him back to the mat,” Schalles said. “On the way down he did a shoulder roll, basically a somersault, to get away from me but on the way down he landed on top of his head and he broke his neck.”

The wrestler survived but became a quadriplegic. Schalles felt devastated. He thought about quitting wrestling forever. But ultimately he knew the injury was an accident, something he didn’t have control over—similar to making a mistake or failing at something, anything. Schalles said you can’t let something you didn’t have any control over in the first place affect something you do have control over—in his case a blazing future in wrestling.

“You struggle, make a mistake, compose yourself, analyze, adapt, overcome and take the next step,” Schalles said. “Then you take two more steps and fail again. Thomas Edison made over 1000 light bulbs before he got it right.”

Viking wrestlers aren’t the only ones being schooled about the sport of wrestling. Head Coach Dan Vanswearingen is learning his own lessons.

“Everything that he’s gone over I try to go home and write down as soon as I get home just so I can think about it and try to remember it so I can teach it to the kids in a week or two,” Vanswearingen said.

Viking High School Junior Billy Ware was thrilled with the more practical aspects of Schalles’ coaching. He said the coach has been going over a number of techniques. His favorite is the Crimson Role—a move that molds the opponent into a shape that closely resembles a pretzel and allows the wrestler in control to roll his opponent over and over while scoring multiple points leading to a technical pin.

“I’m looking forward to the season,” Ware said.


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