The 2019 Senior Perspectives is the 14th in a series of annual collections. Senior captains and representatives of teams at Harvard have been invited to contribute viewpoints based on personal experience from both their senior seasons and full varsity careers at Harvard.
Peter Bearse, Wrestling
Hometown: Seattle, Was.
House Affiliation: Lowell
Reflecting on my time as a wrestler, my mind drifts to the things that this sport has given me. I began wrestling at the age of eight years old. Since then, I’ve been given many things. For example, I’ve explored the tropical paradise that is eastern Pennsylvania during so many tournaments, that the landscape is forever burned into my memory.
I’ve also been given my fair share of physical ailments. As I write this, slow throbs of pain serve uncomfortable reminders of the early-onset osteoarthritis that is slowly deteriorating my left hip joint. While my right hip joint was fortunate enough to avoid becoming arthritic, its torn labrum produces an uncomfortable grinding sensation when rotating my leg at angles greater than thirty degrees. With the core of a spinal disc pressing up against one of my cervical nerves, an electrical burn constantly travels from the back of my neck to the tip of my right index finger. The stress fracture in my lumbar spine from age fifteen aches at myriad points throughout the day. And, due to some unintentional contact between my chin and an opponent’s skull, my two front teeth are dead.
But these are all standard symptoms present in the retiree of a combat sport. After all, in wrestling, the goal is often to inflict enough physical pain upon your opponent that he no longer wishes to continue fighting the position. Sometimes, I inflicted this pain; other times, I had this pain inflicted on me. Without the perspective that wrestling at Harvard has offered me, I might have felt chewed up and spit back out by the sport. It’s easy to look back and recall the moments of pain.
Yet, the moments of pain are transcended by the immaterial qualities I’ve been granted by wrestling here at Harvard. Things that, I believe, supersede the bumps and bruises.
Wrestling is often described as a “fight with rules.” Participating in this largely blue-collar sport while attending a worldwide bastion of higher education and intellectual prestige has established a juxtaposition that I will struggle to replicate elsewhere in life. Spending my mornings fighting to comprehend sampling distributions or Socratic dialogues, followed by spending my afternoons being shoved into walls, having my face grinded into the mat, and then attempting to do the same in return to my best friends on the team – it is remarkably irregular.
These irregular experiences have offered me things that will shape the rest of my “regular” life. There is a laundry list of intangible skills that most sports develop – discipline, commitment, perseverance, teamwork, and so forth. I have no doubt that honing these skills through wrestling will pay dividends in my future. But there is one quality that I believe the sport of wrestling reveals in a unique way: honesty.
A wrestling match is the ultimate test of accountability. There are no other players on offense or defense; there are no other teammates to fumble a pass. Once a competitor steps on the mat, he does so alone. He alone faces the honesty behind his preparation. He alone faces the honesty of his beliefs. He alone is presented with the choice to fight, or to fold. And, once the whistle blows, these truths are revealed.
Through wrestling at Harvard, I have learned what it means to be honest. Honest with my teammates; honest with my coaches; honest with the mission of an organization; honest with myself. Because, in the end, I know that the honest truth reveals itself on the mat. And, through life after Harvard, I will strive to evaluate my role as a citizen. To evaluate my performance as a leader. More importantly, I will evaluate these questions with honesty. Because, eventually, honesty reveals itself.
Through wrestling at Harvard, I have learned what it means to fight. To fight for more out of myself and my wrestling partners. To fight regardless of how many points I’m ahead by or behind by on the scoreboard. To fight for my team. And, through life after Harvard, I hope to use these lessons to fight for a better society. To fight against cynicism. To fight for reasons bigger than myself. I know that, after leaving Harvard, I will inevitably reach moments that bring me face-to-face with two options: to fight, or to fold.
Thanks to Harvard Wrestling, I know that I will fight.