This Thank You goes out to my father. They say in the eyes of a child your mother and father are king and queen and I was blessed to have the best of both. Not only are they amazing individuals but combined they have made a great team. I celebrated my mom on mother’s day and in appropriate fashion, on father’s day I want to celebrate my dad.
My father growing up was my hero he was so big, strong, smart and sometimes scary. As any parent probably knows, there is a small sense of fear you instill into a child when they misbehave, it’s what teaches them respect. After 27 years, I see my dad still through those child-like eyes.
Our relationship has changed and grown over the years. In high school, my wrestling team had nicknamed my dad; Lucifer, but nowadays he is known as just Big Jim, the man. He is ‘the man.’ And as the saying goes “father knows best,” he did know the best and was the best father. He is fully responsible for teaching me how to be a good man and a good person. That probably all stems from his upbringing. My dad was born in a very different time, as the oldest of four brothers. Probably since the day he has known how to walk, he was working for my grandfather. My Gramps ran a family owned custom home construction company.
I don’t know how my dad and his brothers even did the construction work back then. They didn’t have the big machines and tools we could use today. A lot of the work was done by hand cutting the wood. I had to ask my dad how he built a house without a power saw. He said he used a hand saw and he would wake up and make sure it was real sharp before heading to work everyday. And work he did, through summers and school years and even managed to win a PA STATE Wrestling Title too. He went on to Clarion University and got a college degree, but still found himself back home helping the family business.
As a young child, I remember him doing the best job possible working, raising and providing for our family. He always made time on lunch breaks for my sisters and I, and at nights he would talk me to sleep with sport activities and plans. He never missed a big football game, baseball game or wrestling match. He knew most of my coaches, since he grew up with a lot of them. He was good at knowing when to let them coach me and when to give me his own “coaching” advice.
As a successful local family business owner, he was well connected in the community and respected. I feel so lucky to come from a man like him, and to call him my father. His hard work ethics and great sense of timing have paid off. I had wanted to wrestle since I could probably talk. My dad knowing best put me into judo first to learn agility and balance. He was there for me the whole time through highschool, always in my corner cheering, coaching and steering me in the right direction. He did things like having me wrestle two weight classes or two age groups to get different experiences under my belt. He would take me up to the high school and have older kids; stronger kids whip my butt and wrestler with me, until I got better. Experiences like that have tought me to make sure I make the most out of every siuation/goal in my sights, and is why today I don’t do anything half hearted.
When I went to college it all changed, I was on my own living six hours away from home. I had to trust in myself and the values my dad instilled in me would keep me on the right path. I was eighteen and it was time to show my dad that I was a man, and one he would be proud of. During my college days my dad made each and every one of my matches expect two. I wrestled about 152 college matches. I only lost four matches my first two years of college took 3rd and 2nd place at the nationals. I know my dad was proud of that but I wanted to get him that official ‘national title’. And when I did win that first NCAA title, getting to hug my dad after that big moment meant everything in the world to me. After college, my dad has still done everything to support me and help me. He helped me keep my body fueled with good nutrition, found sponsors to keep me wrestling and training and advocated for me to be in the best position to win gold.
As much as it means for my mom to see me make the Olympics I know it means even more for my dad.
I get chocked up just thinking about what it would be like to hug my dad, after winning a gold medal. I know he is already proud of me. I have over exceeded his expectations and even just being part of the Olympic team is more than he could have ever dreamed for me.
Thanks for being the greatest dad, my hero, and someone I look up and have admired my whole life and will for as long as I live. Thanks for all the life lessons and for always being there above and beyond, when I needed you and even when I didn’t need you. I love you so much Dad, and Happy Father’s Day!
A note to fans: Due to my schedule and my sincere comment to training, as my Dad instilled in me. I do have to take a short break from my ‘Thank You’s. I do have more people to thank and will once the Olympics wrap up. Thanks again for your continued support! Go Team U.S.A.!