My name is Aaron Banko. I am from Cleveland, Ohio. I have been in the sport of wrestling since the 2nd grade. I am currently a graduate assistant of wrestling at Thomas More College. However, I wrestled collegiately at Heidelberg University (a NCAA D3 institution). I graduated May of 2016.
My story takes place in February of 2016. It was my senior year and I was wrestling 165 lbs. It was at the regional tournament. The regional tournament is the qualifier for the NCAA national tournament. To make it there you need to place top three in your weight class. I had been seeded 7th in the bracket. This was due to a few losses to some guys in my bracket earlier that year. I already knew it was going to be a tough road but I was up for the challenge. The regular season did not matter at this point. Everything resets and everyone’s record was basically 0-0.
I was feeling good and confident going into my first match. I was dominating and everything seemed to be clicking. However, in wrestling just like in life nothing is guaranteed. I got caught in a cradle and put to my back. I did not get pinned. It did create a hole big enough I could not climb out of. I ended up losing my first match.
For me to make it to the national tournament I would now have to win 5 matches (35 minutes of wrestling) to make it to the national tournament. That is when I had my never quit moment. I knew I needed to take it one match at a time and that is what I did. On the road to the 3rd and 4th place match, I had avenged 2 losses that I had earlier that year. One was actually the number 3 seed in the Consolation semifinals.
In my match to go, or what wrestlers call the blood round I was pretty drained. It felt like I had been hit by a truck. However, I knew that I could always give more and push myself to punch my ticket to the NCAA tournament. During the match, I scored a first-period takedown and rode him out to acquire riding time. I would end up holding my opponent off to score zero points. I had done what many thought could not happen. I had battle back to take 3rd. I had never doubted myself. I had never quit.
I also want to thank you, Marcus, for your story. It has shaped many aspects of how I live my life. As well as what I teach my wrestlers. I try to push these guys to the deep, scary place in there mind that many are scared to go to. That is what creates champions. I often reference what you had to go through and tell them their challenges in the practice room are minuscule in comparison to your story. I one day hope to meet you and just pick your brain. I would love to better myself even more in being able to push myself and smile at adversity. Thank you for your time!