America Public media through the North Carolina National Public Radio produces a wonderful program, The Story ( in which Dick Gordon interviews people who tell extraordinary stories about their lives. One recent program was a story about a wrestler Josh Cagle and his coach Ed Kane. When Cagle wrestled as a youngster he was a scrawny kid who couldn’t win a match. In spite of consistent WRESTLERloses Cagle refused to give up. A wrestling coach Ed Kane was so impressed with this 6thgrader’s determination in spite of losing all his matches that he took him under his wing. Kane would coach Cagle during the week and on weekends he and other youngsters would drive with Kane to regional training tournaments. While the other boys would win some matches, Cagle continued to lose every match, but began to improve.

Once while driving home Cagle asked Kane "Why am I going to win when there are so many other 7th graders doing the same thing I’m doing?" Kane replied "It comes down to a lot of hard work, but more importantly you have to want it a lot more then they do." Cagle was very impressed with the idea that you just needed to work hard and want to win more then your opponent did as the secret of winning matches. He took the advice to heart.

He says it was a turning point for him and he began to believe, for the first time, he could win. He says:

"For the first time, I really believed in myself. I began to believe I could do it. If you put in the effort and are willing to sacrifice and you want it bad enough, you will achieve your goal."

From that point Cagle began to win matches and became a successful wrestler in the 7th and 8th grade. He had come from a divorced home and he and his mother moved frequently. Their car was so old and ugle Cagle had his mother drop him two blocks from school so no one would see it.  No one in his family had gone to college, but he decided he wanted to get a wrestling scholarship which would allow him to attend college. He said that became a driving force getting a scholarship to go to college as well as winning

 He says he asked his coach who he had to beat in a national tournament to get a big win and a chance at a college scholarship. Kane told him that he would have to beat a wrestler from another state who was undefeated and was nationally recognized. This wrestler hadn’t lost a match in four years. Cagle got a poster with this wrestler’s picture on it and hung it in his room. Every day he would look at the poster and rehearse the match with him in his mind, over and over.

He and the other wrestler made it to the national tournament where both of them won their brackets and ended in a match for the national champtionship. To prepare for the match his coach asked Cagle if he wanted to watch the video’s of his opponent wrestling, but Cagle said he didn’t need it. He said:  "I know I am going to win." He felt that way because he said:

 "I had already gone through his routine. I knew his primary move and I knew how to stop it. I had gone through it in my mind over and over."

On the night of the match Cagle’s teammates went to dinner, but he went to his hotel room and rehearsed the match again in his mind.  He said: "I thought I had already won the match."

Coach Kane was very nervous about the match, but Cagle told him: "Don’t worry. I wrestled him a million times and I beat him every time." Cagle said: "I had a sense of calm before the match. I should have been really nervous, but I wasn’t."

The match was tied one to one and  went into overtime, but Cagle was in control the whole match. When it was over Cagle had won the match and became national champion, beating an undefeated national champ at age 17 years.

He did get his scholarship and went to Augsburg College where he was a three time All American. The college team, with Cagle, won the Division III national championship three times. Cagle finished fourth in the nation at 142 pounds in 1998, second in the nation at 149 pounds in 1999 and was national champ the following year. He had a season where he was undefeated with a 49-0 record. He also won three Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic conference Titles.

For me this is an inspiring story and one with life lessons worth remembering. One lesson is the extreme importance people can make in one's life. Someone taking you under your wing when you are young. A kind word or words of encouragement.  I can name the people who had a profound influence in my life. For me, athletics was turning point which gave me a goal and a sense of purpose. Note also, the impact of an encouraging statement. We can have an influence on other people's lives by a word of encouragement or simple positive advice. Coach Kane turned this young man's life around in the right direction.

Another lesson from this story is that attitude is everything. Belief and confidence in yourself is life altering. People's lives have been transformed simply by a change of outlook and attitude. We've seen repeated examples of great achievement where the person had a goal and a belief in themselves. Many books have been written about this, but Norman Vincent Peale's famous The Power of Positive Thinking is one of the best known. 

But, an equally important lesson is the benefit of mental image. I have had a life long habit of rehearsing in my mind and creating images in my mind before the event or activity ever took place. I have been gifted with the ability to see clearly the picture of the event and play the scene in my mind. Before trials or before significant events I rehearse in my mind the activity as if it were happening. In addition to books about attitude, an equal number of books about the benefit of visualization. Maxwell Maltz's famous book Psycho-Cybernetics is a classic example of those books.

Thank you Dick Gordon for inspiring stories with lessons for us all.

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