T Nation

A True T-Man


#1

This is a truly inspirational story and I'm sure many people will like this article so give it a good read...

Wrestler Jamie Macari pushed aside self-doubt and injuries for a crowning victory over his arch-rival.

By Bernie Puchalski
Local Sports

The 1994 Pontiac Firefly pulls into the Tim Hortons parking lot.

Its dusty, white exterior is scarred with more dings and abrasions than a wrestler after a gruelling meet. A half-dozen dents decorate the car and it looks particularly woeful with its back bumper AWOL since the last heavy snowfall in April.

Out steps its owner, recently crowned senior wrestling champion Jamie Macari, who gives a sheepish, embarrassed look upon the close scrutiny of his jalopy.

?Old Betsy?s getting worried about the new carding money,? he says, with a smile.

If Betsy could indeed think, she probably wouldn?t be leaking any oil fretting at the carding money increase her owner will receive from Wrestling Canada. By defeating Mikheil Japaridze, a five-time Canadian senior freestyle champion, Macari?s monthly funding will increase to $1,500 from $900.

It?s certainly not a fortune ? high-performance Canadian amateur athletes have come to expect nothing more ? and Macari isn?t anywhere near foolish enough to think the modest boost to his spartan existence will fund an eye-popping set of flashy, new wheels.

The St. Catharines native?s bankroll isn?t likely to land him much more than Betsy?s cousin. And maybe, somewhere deep in his sub-conscious, the three-time Canadian university champion feels a shared bond of pain with his much-maligned car, and won?t give up on it.

Only 21 years old, the third-year kineisiology student at Brock University has a body many years older. In the ultra-competitive Brock club and university wrestling program, Macari trains like all the others ? like a fiend.

He can?t help but be influenced by his roommate, 2004 Olympian Evan MacDonald, a fanatic who pushes himself in training through and to the point of injury.

Macari, like MacDonald, is banged up every bit as badly as the former?s car.

?I?m in pain every minute of every day. The more I train, the more pain there is,? Macari says, without emotion.

He gestures to his right elbow and lists off tendonitis, bursitis, bone chips, a bone spur and calcific tendonitis, as if giving a lecture on elbow ailments to a group of first-year medical students.

?That?s just my elbow. My knees are also shot.?

Like many wrestlers, he has aches and pains that never go away. But the disturbing part is his relative youth.

?The past few years have been really hard with a lot of tears and I?ve given up on the (2008) Olympics.?

He hit rock bottom last November during a training exercise in Meaford with the Lincoln and Welland Regiment.

?I went for a run and the next morning walking was so painful and slow I cried because I knew it was over soon.?

In his darkest hour, the devout Christian turned to a familiar source of comfort, his Bible.

Playing Bible roulette, Macari opened it at a random page, landing at Isaiah, Chapter 41, a portion of which reads:

All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish.

Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all.

That passage and surrounding verses would ultimately land in Macari?s journal.

Inside its hard, black cover, the verses float above and inside a sunrise drawn by Macari with yellow and blue highlighters.

For Macari, the moment he came upon the passage was like a new beginning, a sunrise, and with it came a realization he could walk away from the sport before he limped away for the last time.

?There?s always something more, but I can stop here and thank God for what he has given me.

?I had, given up hope, surrendered it all to God and said I would go wherever he leads me. If that?s outside of wrestling, that?s fine.?

Content for the first time in a long while, the St. Catharines Collegiate graduate turned his attention to the 30-something Japaridze, a former Commonwealth and Pan Am Games medalist, and one of Macari?s wrestling idols growing up.

Focusing on Japaridze was quite simple for Macari. It was as easy as opening his eyes.

?I?ve had this guy?s picture opposite my bed and I wake up to it every morning.?

Downloaded from Wrestling Canada?s website, the small head and shoulders shot of Japaridze is blown up to the size of an 8X12-inch page.

At the top of the picture, Macari had written ?Abuse him.? At that point, he was anything but confident he would return from the nationals last weekend in Renfrew to add ? in bright, red marker ? a D to the end of abuse.

Macari had won the Canadian 55-kilogram title in 2004 but Japaridze hadn?t competed because he was in the midst of trying to qualify a spot for himself at the 2004 Olympics. In January, Macari stunned the wrestling community by pinning Japaridze in a match at the Guelph Open.

The talk in some wrestling circles was the result was a fluke and that the ref had signalled the pin too early. Japaridze certainly felt that way and refused to shake Macari?s hand afterwards. Macari went home feeling he had got away with one.

?He pinned himself. He knows that and I know that, even if everyone else thinks differently,? Macari said, back in January.

The self-doubting wasn?t anything new for the baby-faced Macari.

?I?ve been on the fence in the past year whether I can beat this guy or not. I wanted to believe in myself but I couldn?t lie to myself.?

He arrived at Renfrew last weekend and didn?t waste any time setting up another encounter with Japaridze.

After getting a bye in the first round, Macari defeated Canadian Interuniversity Sport 54-kilogram champion Huy Nguyen 2-0 (6-0, 6-0) in the best two-of-three round matches, before scoring a 2-0 (6-0, 7-0) triumph over Promise Mwenga.

?Two hours before the (final) match, I was looking at myself in the mirror and I kind of winked at myself and said, ?Let?s do this.? And then I believed. If I couldn?t have faith in myself to beat him, it would be my faith in God that would carry me through that.?

In the first round against Japaridze, Macari fell behind 3-0 early but didn?t lose hope. He would end up dropping the first round 4-0 but he used the time to wear his opponent down.

?The second round was the turning point. He became more and more exhausted and I kept waiting for my opportunities.?

It came with 20 seconds left when Macari scored the only point of the second round.

?In the third round, I continued to break him,? Macari said.

With one minute left in the final round, Macari scored three points to grab the lead.

After taking a moment to savour the score, Macari went into a defensive mode. With 10 seconds left, he grabbed his much-decorated opponent, said ?Get,? threw him down and said, ?Out.?

?He lay there with his hands over his face and it all came out of me. I was screaming a victory shout, a huge victory shout,? Macari said.

The ref raised Macari?s arm and the spent wrestler knelt down on the mat, hid his face, and cried.

?It wasn?t the first time I cried. I?ve wanted it for so long. Tons of people contributed to this and it all came together,? he said.

By the weekend?s conclusion, Macari had been named the outstanding wrestler of meet, won the national Greco Roman title, and made it a hat trick by defeating the University of New Brunswick?s Mwenga to earn a berth in the World University Games.

?It will be a couple of weeks before I start looking at the worlds. I?m going to enjoy this,? he said, while he munched the last maple dip doughnut left in the store.

Where he goes from here, God only knows.


#2

Bump. Does no one have anything to say?


#3

I do.

I'm sorry, but I could never figure out why a man would want to get in to a sport where you roll around with another sweaty man...


#4

AN accomplished wrestler, but what's the point of the post. THat he has elbow problems? Most athletes have recurring injuries, aches and pains.


#5

If you spent a few practices trying to do the shit that wrestlers do I'm sure youd have a different outlook. As for the whole why did he mention his injuries.....I'm sure the reporter asked him, hence the storyline type thing.


#6

Sorry I misunderstood your last post but your right most athletes do have bumps and bruises and such but how much do they get paid? This man is the best at what he does in his country. Senior national champion and yet he gets paid 1500 a month? What does the best basketball player in your country get?

The best golfer? The best baseball player? And I can garentee that they don't put their bodies through half as much.


#7

I agree man. Wrestlers are purely the most badass people around.


#8

The difference is for us there isn't a day off. You do everything in pain. Unless I was in the hospital I was going to wrestle.

It shows the dedication that we have to our sport. The money is non-existent unless you win major tournaments and gets sponsor money. But even Cael Sanderson isn't getting paid the $$ NBA/NFL stars are. It shows just what kinds of mental and physical anguish we put ourselves through just so we can be the best in our sport.

Good read and good comments Sonny.


#9

This is exactly why I quit wrestling......a guys sweaty package in my face was just way too much.


#10

Funny, i've never had a guys balls in my face in 2years of wrestling...you must have sucked pretty bad..hehe just joking but all things aside why people give wrestlers hard time as being gay makes no sense to me, you're out there to compete and you work amazingly hard.


#11

I know exactly what you mean, it makes no sense to me, either.

-CJ