High school wrestling: Hardaway athlete demonstrates the meaning of perseverance

dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 25, 2013 

Taylor Stephens didn't stop bleeding for four minutes and 45 seconds.

A busted lip, which would require stitches, flowed freely from the Hardaway High wrestler's upper lip during a match at the Smiths Station Invitational tournament last weekend for nearly the entire five minutes he was allotted to stem the flow.

Fifteen more seconds, and the match would have ended in a forfeit and an early exit for a wrestler who had designs on winning the tournament title in the 138-pound weight class.

When the bleeding stopped, he went to work.

"I told him that, with the injury, he'd need to pin the guy quickly and get out of there," Hardaway coach Kevin Noviello said. "That didn't happen. He ended up going two more periods with the guy and winning the match in points. It was pretty gutsy."

Not long after, Stephens was in the emergency room getting stitches on his lip. For some, that may have been the end of the story.

Not for Stephens.

"He was sending me texts, asking how the team was doing from the ER," Noviello said. "He never lost focus. He didn't want to quit. He wanted to come back the next day and win his matches."

Which, of course, he did.

The injury forced him to miss a match on Friday, resulting in a forfeit and preventing him from winning his weight class. But the junior returned on Saturday to win his matches and grab third place.

When he suits up for the city wrestling championships at Columbus High today, however, he aims to make up for a missed opportunity.

"It's been a lot of mental preparation," he said. "Just getting it in my mind that no one in the city can beat me and that I'm going to come out on top."

That's the mentality for an individual who says it isn't in his nature to quit. His unwillingness to let an injury hold him up last week demonstrates that fact.

"When you want something bad enough, you'll make yourself work for it," he said. "I can't let (an injury) stop me."

Stephens began wrestling as a freshman at Hardaway. He learned early that things weren't just going to come easy.

It wasn't just a matter of being physically gifted or strong. It was a sport that required a year-round commitment in the weight room and on the mats.

"It was a wake-up call," said Stephens, who took plenty of lumps early, according to his coach.

Noviello said that when Stephens would challenge other wrestlers for the top spot in his class, it took a long time and a lot of failure before he was able to succeed.

"He never quit, though," Noviello said. "I think that's what impressed me about him early on is that every time he lost, he took that as a challenge to get better."

Competitive by nature, Stephens said that getting better was the only option. Now, as a junior he has aims at making state and winning at the city championships along the way.

And after getting his stitches out on Friday, he's feeling healthy again, too.

"I just think of all the hard work I've put into my sport -- do I want to give up now?" he said. "I've never given up easy. That's the way you have to be. You have to have a will to win."

The win is what makes all that work and occasional pain worthwhile, Stephens said. Asked what his favorite part about wrestling was, his answer was simple.

"Getting my hand raised," he said. "That's it."

Ledger-Enquirer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service