As we were preparing to weigh in for the big wrestling tournament, I was reading the sign that was directly over the scale when the young man beside me spoke to me.

So, what weight do you wrestle at?”

“One-sixty-seven,” I replied

He reached out his hand to shake mine. “Me too. Name’s John.”

“Daris,” I said as I shook his hand. We visited a minute, and then he leaned toward me a bit and whispered.

“Hey! I’ve heard there is really only one wrestler in our weight that you have to be careful of.”

“Oh!” I replied. “Who is that?”

He glanced nervously around, and then whispered quieter still. “His name is Howard’, and he’s from South Fremont.”

I was taken aback at hearing my own name, but I felt I did a masterful job of hiding my surprise. When I recovered and was finally able to speak, I asked him what he had heard about the South Fremont wrestler.

I soon found myself on the receiving end of one of the most interesting descriptions of myself I had ever heard. According to what he shared, I was pretty much a legend, rivaling Paul Bunyan. Though some of what he said was true, the portion that was had been completely blown up into incredibly tall tales.

He said he had it on good authority that I had broken the leg or arm of almost every wrestler I had come up against. He said he had heard that no one had ever lasted past the first round with me. He even claimed that there were coaches who said they would rather default and not have one of their team members wrestle me than chance having them get hurt.

It may have been true that I had been in some very fierce matches, but they were that way because of tough opponents. The matches were hard fought due to the intensity of the competition. I would never hurt anyone on purpose, and I only knew of one young man that had been hurt wrestling me. And that accident was caused more by his inexperience than by anything on my part. I considered telling that to this young man, and telling him who I was, but I didn’t know how to go about it.

After weigh-in, the coaches met to determine how each wrestler would be seated in the tournament. When the list was posted, the wrestlers hurried over to look at it. I took my time getting there, and by the time I arrived, the other wrestler had already checked it out. He hung his head as I asked him about his draw.

“Can you believe my rotten luck?” he replied. “I wrestle Howard on the first round.”

I told him that Howard was just an intense wrestler and not out to hurt anyone.

“Have you wrestled him before?” he asked.

“I just know him.”

“I hope you’re right,” he replied.

When it came time for our match, he walked dejectedly to the mat. When I lined up across from him he looked up, and I could see the shock in his eyes. “He’s you?!”

I nodded. “And I’m not out to hurt anybody. Just wrestle.”

But it ended up being the shortest match I have ever wrestled. He was pinned in about 30 seconds. I kind of felt sorry for him.

When I stepped off the mat, my coach said he’d never seen such a fast pin.

I just shrugged. “It wasn’t really my doing.”

My coach looked confused. “What do you mean?”

“Well,” I replied, “the truth is, he was his own worst opponent, and beat himself long before he ever stepped on the mat.”

That was when I remembered the words on the sign over the scale when we were weighing in, and realized how true they are.

“Attitude determines altitude. If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist and playwright, is author of “Super Cowboy Rides” and can be contacted at [email protected]; or visit his website