What Is Good Sportsmanship? High Schooler Seeks – and Finds – the Answer
Zach Wilhelm, a rising high school sophomore and a dedicated wrestler, unexpectedly had to define good sportsmanship on a deeply personal level. He received recognition from the Howard County Public School System, but he still believes his opponent, coaches and team deserve the credit for helping him make the right decisions.
Now on summer break from school, Wilhelm shared his story with The Business Monthly.
As a freshman at Mount Hebron High School, he was wrestling in his first tournament, the Husky Open. He had already lost one round, and if he lost another, he was out of the tournament. “I didn’t know who I was wrestling,” Wilhelm recalled. “I just knew it was important.”
One of the competing wrestlers did not have use of his legs, and wrestled using his core, hands and arms. A few minutes before the match, Wilhelm realized this young man would be his opponent.
“Right off the bat, I had a lot of different feelings,” said Wilhelm. “I was confused. I was wresting an opponent with a disability. Right away I talked to my coach about it. My coach said, ‘He wants to be treated like any other wrester.’”
After Wilhelm shook hands with his opponent and the match began, Wilhelm simply did what he would do in any other match: his best. “When you get into a match, your inner adrenaline starts pumping and you get into the mode. I ended up pinning him in 16 seconds.”
Later in the tournament, Wilhelm realized he was in the running for the fastest pin trophy. “Right away, I started to feel bad about it. I had some turmoil,” he said. “Once again, I went to my coaches, and they sat down to talk to me about the best thing to do.”
Wilhelm wanted to give his trophy to his opponent but was unsure how it would be received. “I didn’t want him to see it as me not treating him as any equal wrestler.”
At the end of the tournament, the wrestlers received their trophies. As his opponent was boarding the bus, Wilhelm gave him the trophy.
“I told him he deserved it more than I did because he had the biggest heart in the building. I told him he was an inspiration.”
Wilhelm went back to his team, and the moment was over. “I didn’t expect people to notice what I did. I think people should notice what he did — just by being out there he was inspiring everybody. I think he should be seen as more of a hero.”
Lessons For the Future
Wilhelm intends to study medicine after he graduates from high school. “I’m very interested in orthopedics,” he said. “My mother is actually a doctor.”
The skills teenagers learn in sports help build their foundation as adults in the workplace, said Daniel Harman, one of Wilhelm’s wrestling coaches. “Wrestling requires commitment, dedication and hard work because it is such a challenging and demanding sport. These students develop a strong character because of what they go through as wrestlers.”
Ultimately, Wilhelm’s decision-making during the tournament resulted in an act of kindness, said Harman. “Sometimes, as adults, we get caught up in our jobs and our busy lives, especially if we work in an environment where everyone is trying to achieve more than the other. We forget about the little things that really matter. We forget that a small act of kindness can go a long way.”