A friend who grew up with the Mount Union coach, Mark Hawald, forwarded the following public email that he sent out to his contact list. Even if you know nothing about amateur wrestling and aren't particularly into sports, he has distilled some incredible lessons when faced with a loss, big or small. Hope you are able to glean and apply some truths from this email as you say a prayer for all those intimately connected with the tragedy.
The experience the Mount Union Wrestling Family went through Tuesday night was something I hope no other coach ever has deal with. On the way home from a dual meet, our team’s bus was involved in an accident which took the life of our trainer and friend, Dan Gorman. My assistant coach suffered a broken wrist, and thankfully there were no other injuries.
This has been a difficult and confusing time for both my team and me. Dan was more than a trainer to us. He was like our fifth coach. He attended all of our practices and home meets, and some of our away meets. Dan was a mentor to me and my wrestlers and always had advice on how to be a better person, so I want to use this experience as Dan would, as a way to help others grow and improve their own lives. I hope I can pass on what I have learned to others and that they will not have to experience anything like this to learn such valuable lessons.
I have learned to better appreciate the people who deserve my appreciation. I thought Dan was an amazing trainer. I often referred to him as “the smartest person I know.” His mat side diagnosis was usually the same as the one given by a specialist weeks later after looking an X-Ray or MRI. Beyond his profession, Dan provided incredible life lessons and insight to anyone who was willing to listen. He made my job as a coach easier because I knew that my wrestlers would become better people after spending just a few minutes with him. I appreciated Dan for everything he did for this team, but I don’t know how clear I made that to him. As my wrestlers discussed winning a conference title to honor Dan, I interrupted and said the best way to honor Dan is to model ourselves after him and become better people. We need to better appreciate the people who deserve our appreciation, let them know how much they mean to us, say thank you for the impact they have made on our lives, and try to be the Dan Gorman is someone else’s life.
I have learned that the rewards of wrestling do not always show on the mat. Tuesday was the worst moment in my coaching career, but also my proudest. I often leave practice frustrated. If my guys don’t work as hard as they should or can’t figure something out I ask myself what am I doing wrong as a coach or what is wrong with my guys that they are not doing exactly what they should. I learned Tuesday night that I have succeeded as a coach and that my wrestlers are exactly the men that I want them to be. When faced with a crisis, these young men were true champions. The lessons they have learned from this sport were apparent on Tuesday night. We had a goal to save our dear friend. They worked together and did everything they could. Everyone played an important role. Those with “medical” experience immediately put their attention on Dan, some ventured out into the cold to set up flares, waive down vehicles, and assess the situation of the bus, some comforted the girls (our managers) who were shook up from the accident, and the rest gathered close to stay warm and started praying. I hope other coaches too will learn that although our guy does not always get his hand raised, we are playing a crucial role in developing real-world champions.
I have learned is that the brotherhood known as wrestling is the one of the strongest, most dependable, and most honorable groups of individuals on this planet. The support that this team has received has been unbelievable. I have received support from across the state and across the country. From high schools and colleges. From all divisions. Our biggest competitors have become our biggest supporters. I lost count early yesterday of how many programs have extended their support. I have seen the worst situation bring out the absolute best in people. We decided to still hold our tournament we had scheduled for Sunday at the request of Dan’s wife. She said that carrying on our lives and acting no different is what Dan would have wanted. I have had multiple coaches tell me that they would be willing to run the tournament or provide other help. Words cannot express what this support means to the team and to me. Wrestlers who quit my team for whatever reason, were waiting for us when we returned to campus to offer their support. I hope that people reading this will not wait for the worst situation to bring out their best.
I hope this message can be valuable to anyone who has suffered any type of loss and that in sharing this message, others can grow from this as the members of my team have and continue to.
Lastly, here are a few specific messages to different groups involved in our sport…
Your children are in the hands of the finest men on the planet. Every coach I know in this sport is a great man and will do anything for your son. Wrestling coaches will try to make a better wrestler, but will definitely make a better man.
Cherish every moment you have in this sport. You have chosen to surround yourself among the greatest peers in your teammates and the greatest role models in your coaches. Practice is tough. Cutting weight is tough. Losing is tough. But so is life. What you learn in this sport will be the most valuable lessons you will learn in life.
As we waited for the emergency crew to arrive, I was holding blankets over Dan and rubbing his arms trying to keep him warm. While our student trainer was trying to get him back, I started talking to Dan. I was saying “Stay tough” and “You can do this” and “Dig Deep” and other things like that. I caught myself and realized that these were the same things I say to my wrestlers when times get tough in a match or at practice. I was looking forward to having a good laugh about it with Dan and my team when he would make his return. I will not have the opportunity to have this reunion, but this did make me realize that in a crisis situation, I fell back on the wrestling coach that I am. This situation has taught me that our value to these young men is greater than I could have ever imagined. Don’t forget who you are and the impact you have on so many people’s lives.