“Everyone’s gonna get tired,” said Washington wrestling coach Bryan Medlin. “Everyone’s gonna get kicked and fall down, but it isn’t about that. It’s about how you react once that’s there.”
That’s great advice from a state champion wrestling coach. But Bryan Medlin’s words were tested just three days before Christmas.
“On the drive home, I could see the fire, and I knew my wife was there, and I knew my kids were coming,” Medlin said.
A blaze that began with no one around had engulfed his Deer Creek home.
“I knew I was gonna have to be a source of strength for them,” said Medlin.
Life had put Medlin on his back, but he countered with a move he employed as an All-State Panther wrestler.
“You fight pressure with pressure. You don’t sit down,” said Medlin. “You don’t feel sorry for yourself. You find one right thing to do.”
The morning after that fire destroyed Medlin’s home, he and his family got right to work, clearing up the land so they could rebuild in the same location. His wrestling family also got right to work with a new perspective.
“We just turned on the lights,” said senior wrestler Jacob Warner. ‘We started working harder, we started thinking more when we wrestled. It just made us realize what we need to do isn’t set it stone and nothing is guaranteed.”
Senior Dack Punke added: “I think sticking to the gameplan and coming out here every day with the will to get better and better this program has really helped him a lot.”
Medlin took everything in stride.
“Any time you get to do your life’s work, your passion, it does take your mind off the enormity of situations, and knowing someone’s behind you, knowing you have support, it gives you strength, it gives you power,” said Medlin.
This community knows a little something about finding strength after tragedy.
“I learned from the (2013) tornado and the people in the town of Washington when they started rebuilding. It was like showing the tornado who’s boss,” said Medlin. “We’re gonna show that fire who’s boss and we’re gonna put a house right back there.”
The fire did not slow down Medlin, who will coach nine of his wrestlers at this week’s state championship meet.
“The fire – nobody was expecting it, it was hard times for his family, but he put his boots on and worked, and that’s what we’re doing, putting our boots on and working in the room,” Warner said.
“The same adversity you meet on a wrestling mat, you’re gonna meet that same adversity in life, whether it’s the sickness of a kid or the burning of a house,” said Medlin. “You don’t look at it like, ‘I don’t have a house.’ You look at, ‘Alright, what’s the first thing we have to do?’ It starts to become less of a big deal that way.”
Trusting that process and that comeback story makes the grueling task of winning a state title feel like less of a big deal.