Almost every runnerup in last week's state championship left the mat in the tears.
Springstead's Schuyler Swanton literally ran off the mat crying. He ran into the locker room crying. He came out of the locker room, after getting changed, and he still was crying.
Seth Metz stayed on the mat for a moment, crouched with his head down. As he walked over to his coaches you could see his face straining; he was trying to keep his composure. Minutes later, his dad met him in the tunnel and the two embraced for well over a minute. Metz rested his head on Daddy's shoulder and the tears started streaming.
Perhaps more than other athletes, a loss in a big match can crush a wrestler.
"You spend all that time and blood and sweat," Metz said, "and to have it all end is just . . . "
His eyes were still red and watery, his voice low. Normally articulate, he found few words to describe what he was feeling. His career ended with a 7-2 loss to Brandon's Tom Timothy. It was the third time this season Timothy beat Metz.
"To get here and end my career without a state title," reflected Metz, "I just feel like I failed everyone."
On a wrestling mat, it's just you and the other guy. When you lose, no teammates share the blame.
Saturday at the Lakeland Center, thousands of fans looked on throughout the evening. Winning wrestlers usually jumped off the mat and into their coaches' arms or turned to the section of the arena where their fans sat and pumped their fists to the crowd. But for the defeated, that venue can be a lonely island.
Swanton agreed it can be embarrassing, which may be why he chose to run off the mat instead of remain in front of all those strangers and bare private emotions like hurt, embarrassment and failure.
Metz said he and his father, David, were having some personal issues lately, father-son type of issues that occur when the son is becoming a man. During their embrace, David told Seth he was proud of him. Seth, overwhelmed with feelings of failure, told his father he was sorry.
"Sorry for what?" asked David, rhetorically. "Son, I hope that someday you have a son and he turns out like you, so you can experience the joy you've given me."
In that tunnel, in his father's arms, Metz wasn't a runnerup.
Vincent Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 352848-1430.
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