Gregory Kane: Character More Important Than Winning
Nick Romero is my new hero.
It is at this point many readers might be saying, "I don't know Nick Romero from a tree stump." And the truth is, neither do I.
Romero is a wrestler for LaPlata High School in Maryland's Charles County. Don't tune out just yet.
The reason why this story caught my eye is two-fold: my godson is on his high school wrestling team, and was just awarded the MVP for the season. Hence why a story on wrestling piqued my interest. But it is the primary reason that really hooked me, and that is:
This isn't a story about high school wrestling; it's a story about character, which is in shorter and shorter abundance these days.
Last Saturday, at Cole Field House on the campus of the University of Maryland, College Park, Romero taught me a lesson about character that will stick with me for the rest of my days. It's a lesson all of us would do well to learn.
After Romero's lesson, the crowd gathered at Cole Field House to watch the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association wrestling championships was on its feet cheering, and I'm willing to bet there was nary a dry eye in the place.
Romero, according to a bracket sheet I bought at the tournament, is a senior at LaPlata. He faced Ron Vaughters, a junior from Old Mill High School in Anne Arundel County, for the 140-pound championship.
Vaughters is a fierce, take-no-prisoners wrestler who breaks his opponents both physically and mentally. I can't speak for Romero's state of mind, but Vaughters hammered him physically throughout the match.
With 12 seconds of their six-minute bout remaining, Vaughters had an 8-2 lead. He was clearly on his way to winning his second state title in as many years. But when he grabbed Romero's leg, hoisted him in the air and brought him down hard on the mat, the referee penalized Vaughters for slamming Romero to the mat.
A potentially dangerous move, the official called it. In amateur wrestling, potentially dangerous moves are penalized.
Oh, ow - that sound so painful. I know that sort of thing isn't allowed in football either with a quarterback, but at least those guys have pads on. This was a 140 lb kid in a wrestling suit:
Vaughters' move left Romero writhing in pain, injured from the slam. I overheard a man behind me explaining the consequences of what Vaughters did to a friend.
If Romero couldn't continue, if he was unable to walk back to the center of the mat so the referee could blow the whistle for the match to continue, then Vaughters would be disqualified. Romero would be the state champion at 140 pounds.
And Romero couldn't continue. In his four years at LaPlata, he was never a state champion. All he had to do to win a state title was to have his coaches lead him from the mat. But Romero decided to take a different route.
If I were you, I might go get a kleenex:
He had his coaches lead him to the center of the mat. Vaughters stood opposite him, and the referee blew the whistle for the match to continue. Then Vaughters and Romero just stood there, neither making a wrestling move, facing each other as the final 12 seconds ticked off the clock.
The crowd rose to its feet, applauding, cheering, celebrating Romero's show of sportsmanship. When the referee raised Vaughters' hand in victory, the Old Mill wrestler hugged Romero as if he'd found a long-lost brother.
Romero could have gotten his state championship, but it would have been on the cheap. Vaughters was clearly the superior wrestler, and Romero knew it. So he passed on his one and only chance to be a state wrestling champ for one reason, and it's a darned good one.
Because he hadn't earned it.
In this age where just about everybody wants to be a victim, Romero took the high road. In an age of trash-talking, egotistical and, in some cases, felony-prone pro athletes, Romero gave us an example of sportsmanship, character and courage second to none.
Yeah, this kid is definitely my new hero.
Mine, too. What a wonderful role model this young man is. In this day and age, it is refreshing - no, strike that - amazing - for someone to not try and take something he didn't earn, who isn't trying to get something for nothing, who thinks he is entitled to something he didn't work for, and doesn't deserve.
Nick Romero's parents should be very proud of this tremendous young person they reared. He is the kind of person we need more of in this country. Yep, Nick's my new hero, too.
Can you imagine if our current crop of Congresspeople acted with this much integrity and honor? I know, right?
But the bigger question is: Why DON'T they? Why don't our Congresspeople act like Nick Romero? That's what I would like to know. Thoughts?