Opportunity Lost, Sheer Determination Gained

Photo Courtesy of Millikin Wrestling

Advertisement

Covid-19 crushed the childhood dreams of four Millikin athletes.

The four, Zac Blasioli, Tayler McGiffen, Bradan Birt, and Logan Haggerbaumer, had earned their spots in the NCAA Division III National Championships in wrestling but never got to compete. The tournament was canceled due to Covid-19. Blasioli, Haggerbaumer, and McGiffen fought to earn third to get a spot in the Championships. Birt took on his competition efficiently, taking first in his bracket.

Worse, they were getting ready to compete when the tournament was canceled.

“We were on the mats warming up when the announcer came over the intercom,” coach Ryan Birt said.

It was frustrating, they’d fought so hard to earn their spots.

“I went numb and hated the world,” Birt said.

The goal is always to win and grow, and these guys have grown so much throughout the season. Their opportunity to win at the Championships was taken from them, and they couldn’t do anything about it. After everything they did, they couldn’t have known that COVID-19 would get this bad.

“There was disappointment for sure, sadness and depression too,” McGiffen said. “I mean, nothing good at all, but I didn’t really have anger because there was nothing to be angry at.”

This wasn’t how they saw their season ending. They wanted to win, but this doesn’t change anything. If anything, it makes them even hungrier for next season. This blow was like a punch in the gut, but that doesn’t mean that they lose their motivation.

“When you hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up from an emotional standpoint,” McGiffen said. “I mean, it affected me emotionally, but nothing has changed. Goals and motivations are the same, nothing’s new.”

The season may not have ended the way they wanted it too, but that doesn’t mean that they are giving up. They aren’t going to let this stop them from reaching their goals because they fought too hard to give up. Sure, the competition isn’t going to happen this year, but they have something to fight for again next season.

It’s not ideal, no one was prepared for this to happen in any case. It was a surprise for everyone, but for them, it was frustrating because of the simple fact that they’re season ended without a fight to be National Champion. However, they aren’t losing motivation, instead, they’re going to get back into the wrestling room and train for next year.

“I’m going to continue my training to become a National Champion at the next opportunity,” Birt said.

Plans change, it happens, but it’s how one reacts that can make it into a big deal. These guys went through several emotions, they likely still are, but they know what they have to do. They’re going to get back on the mats, they’re going to continue to train hard, and they’re going to come back stronger and better next year.

The season ended without a championship tournament, there’s no 2020 National Champion at all. However, becoming a National Champion of 2021 is a new goal for these guys.

“From a real-life perspective, time to go back to the wrestling room and keep training for next year,” McGiffin said. “Like I said, nothing changes.”