170-plus wrestlers … many more fans, friends, administrators, coaches and athletic trainers.
One could figure there were many great stories to tell at Wabash College’s Knowling Fieldhouse Friday and Saturday, Feb. 23 and 24.
Manchester University junior Isaac Ray may have been one of the best.
While his Spartans teammates aimed for berths at the NCAA Division III Championships, he sometimes sat alone on the edge of the mat or with others watching and hoping … and coaching.
Flashback a year ago. The picture looked markedly different for the then starting 174-pounder for Coach Kevin Lake’s program. He was trying to book a ticket to nationals.
“When I had surgery (for a labrum injury sustained earlier in his collegiate career) last spring break, my family and I knew that my time competing might be limited,” Ray said while taking a break before the second day of regional action.
It was tough this year,” he admitted looking back at a 1-13 record. “Wrestling is extremely mental, and it got that way after the surgery and injuries … it made coming back tough. After the fifth time of it coming out, I knew (my competing career) was over.”
Ray, who’s personality framework is one many student-athletes could learn from, decided to put the tried and true adage of “making lemonade out of lemons” into action.
“I wanted to stay with the guys and the program,” he said. “Coaching is something I’ve thought about a lot, so when I told Coach Lake I wanted to do something to help, he was behind the idea.
(The transition) can be a little tricky from time to time after having been an athlete along with them this season as a student coach now,” he added. “However, they’ve all grown into seeing me as a key peer over the second half of the year. It’s great … I love every minute of it.”
Isaac comes by his grounded personality honestly. Two weeks after the labrum slipped out of place, his dad told him “God doesn’t destroy dreams.” “He just said that the competition side wasn’t in the cards,” he reflected. “God had something different in store.” That faith worked into his transition through a book passage shortly after that, too.
“I’ve been behind the thought that ‘True success comes from being at peace,'” he admitted. “I’m at peace (with the way things have gone). I’m focused on helping lead this team and next year’s team in any way possible … learning the ropes so I can do the same after college.”
Coaching and keeping friends, teammates and future wrestlers grounded in life … Isaac Ray producing a life of ability and conviction to be principled, productive and compassionate.