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Weighing In: Wrestler's Guide to Life

Updated: Apr 10, 2019

Tell People about your Success

(Chat with the wrestlers at Franklin & Marshall College)

I love wrestlers. No offense to any other sport or enthusiast who reads this. Shouldn’t be. Why? Cause wrestlers get stuck in dark basement workout rooms, have the snot kicked out of them daily, fight acne from having their faces smashed into sweaty mats every practice & have to starve themselves just to compete. No thanks. These guys are warriors.

Enter wrestler to college: The rigorous academic program that awaits stands aside for no man & certainly no sport. Academics reign supreme at top liberal arts universities like F & M, especially in academic conferences like the EIWA, Centennial and Patriot leagues.

The Gladiator’s balancing act now begins. They enter with the enthusiasm of wanting to compete nationally, be conference or regional champ, and beyond! The wrestler’s mindset blocks out the obstacles to then achieve FOCUS.

There exists a duality of perseverance that non-athletes just don’t have. Tough majors like BIO, Chem & Engineering demand their own 100% focus, and there’s only so much 100% to go around.

Props to all college athletes, I don’t know how they do it.

Life ain’t fair:

Definition: wrestling for a D1 program at a D3 school. Little F & M in Lancaster, PA with its 2800 students and 0 scholarships competes in the EIWA conference with the likes of D1 programs Harvard & Bucknell, and managed to best both of them in this year’s EIWA Conference of the most competitive conferences in the USA.

Personally I hate to be called out – I never want to be “that guy” on a team that finishes last.. In fact I’d do almost anything to NOT be that guy. If I finish last or get pinned, I know the team gets hurt. Sometimes in the liberal college environment that exists today, it’s tough to stand out and take 100% accountability.

Coach Mike Rogers applauds his F & M athletes, “I’m happy to see my top guys step out of the comfort zone and dare to be tough & gritty – my guys that win don’t accept low standards… they aim high.” That resonates with an Army Ranger – “AIM high, CRAZY high”. Back when I was coaching track, I once had a grade school track parent find me on the track at practice and say (rather loudly),

“So let me get this straight – you fill these kids’ heads up with the idea they can be the best in the nation?” I took a ½ second pause before answering to happily respond, “Why, yes.. yup that’s exactly what I do!”

Coach Rogers, now in his 9th season as Head Coach for the Diplomats, and previously at American U and Lockhaven, points to the Wrestler’s Mindset – control what you can control. Study. Practice hard. Eat healthy. Get sleep. It works. I really liked what Coach said about achieving balance: life loves to judge performance by looking just at the scoreboard, but his young leaders are aiming for the big picture: perform to the limits of your natural ability both on the mat and in the classroom. A record of 100% graduation, a great alumni network, and excellent jobs out of college is pretty darn hard to argue with. Well done, team.

My leadership chat with the boys was very lively. I love the personalities that bubble up from the crowd:

Anthony Pelusi, Senior, Heavyweight <285 lbs, immense strength and agility at his size, he is a 3 time NCAA qualifier F & M’s top wrestler.

Paddy Quinlan, Senior, 149 lbs, placed at 2019 Conferences, and is graduating with a great job waiting for him at a Medical Device company.

Emmett Licastri, Junior, a top recruit with a disappointing 1st year. Harnessing confidence he came roaring back to a great year, and his teammates feel the boost.

Anthony Mancini, 5th year senior, the little engine that could. Not big or physically gifted, just the hardest working kid on the team. Even a devastating injury this season isn’t stopping him. He’ll be back next year and Coach thinks he’ll make Nationals.

Steven Mercadante, Soph, 205 lbs, is the one with the beat up face above & is immensely talented from the state of Florida. His dad Merc (on the left) is an Airborne Ranger and we served together in Iraq (Eggy on the right is a Desert Storm Ranger too). Like so many NCAA parents, he is genuinely good and caring & makes those LONG trips to watch the meets - and a popular male figure to many of the young men on the team too. Hooh-ah Rangers.

And there were a bunch of other great young leaders ready to fill their shoes when the seniors graduate.

I promised to join them for a great big dinner after the season is over when no one will be counting calories.

I learned a couple more things from my day with the F & M wrestling team:

Abraham Lincoln was noted to be a top-notch wrestler, and legend has it he won 300 matches versus just 1 loss. Pretty good inspiration for the rest of us. I especially favor his record of losing just about every political race he ever competed in, only to keep persevering and finally win the big one – the Presidential election.

The F & M Diplomats most famous alumni was Captain Dick Winters of Band of Brothers fame. He was a hero of mine, and I patterned much of my own style of Ranger leadership from what I read about him & his Airborne paratroopers in Easy Company during WWII.


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Captain Joe Sacchetti served 2 tours in Iraq, commanding Ranger Scouts in the 82nd Abn & earning the Bronze Star Medal.

MIT's Exec Ed program in Strategy & Innovation teaches senior Business Managers to think like Leaders. me @

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