Alex Sinden '24 Chapel Talk

Alex Sinden '24 Chapel Talk

Our community gathers each Wednesday morning in the Moseley Chapel for quiet reflection and a Chapel Talk by a community member about something important to them. Alex ’24 from London, England recently shared his experience studying in the U.S. through his introduction to the sport of wrestling.

Chapel Talk by Alex Sinden '24

Whilst I was in the process of writing this speech I attempted to recall to my mind a moment where I found myself extraordinarily challenged; An anecdote I could base my speech around. But no matter how hard I tried I am to an extent blessed to say no such occasion could be recalled to mind. That is not to say I had never experienced adversity or trepidation but that such instances always felt superficial. That was until I joined the Govs wrestling program.

Having originally wanted to join the ski team I started wrestling about a week late and within a couple of days’ practice, I was off to my first competition. Now I was completely unfamiliar to wrestling having only previously experienced normal sports like rugby, cricket and football (the ordinary kind not your version). From what I had gathered it was just a couple of sweaty men throwing each other around on a mat for a couple minutes - how bad could that be?

Alas, I went along to this tournament, a two-hour coach southward to the home of Peter Griffin and my least favourite state: Rhode Island! As we lined up to weigh ourselves I measured up my competition. Now I wouldn’t consider myself as unfit but when I saw my future adversaries for the first time it was a moment of reckoning. These were the sort of men I had expected to see on Seal Force Six or in a cage fight and not to sound silly, I felt like a twig in that moment. Not only could these boys have literally picked me up and snapped me in half but I was just about to let them do exactly that on the mat.

Things had really gone pear shaped. I was like the protagonist from a horror movie approaching the door to the basement. Death was practically inevitable. As our team began fighting my fears appeared confirmed when a dear member of the team was dunked like a biscuit into tea. Only the biscuit was his head and the tea the floor. Suffice as to say the sight of my teammate getting wheeled out into an ambulance did little to calm my nerves.

When it was my turn to fight I tiptoed onto the mat to find my opponent pounding his chest like a gorilla. Now this was not to be some Disneyesque tale of David vs Goliath, where the plucky little English fella overcame the unconquerable odds to beat his opponent. After hopping around the mat I was face planted to the floor and rolled onto my back - something I later learnt I was not supposed to not let happen.

Despite “looking like a noob” as Coach Hunt would say and feeling slightly humiliated by such a rapid loss, I realised that not only were limbs not horribly mangled like some car-crash victim but that I was still alive. However, instead of providing relief such a fact instead enraged me. We brits were supposed to be known for our stoicism and stiff upper lip, as the nation which Churchill proclaimed in the darkest hours of World War II, were prepared to fight the Germans with the broken ends of beer bottles. And yet there I was still standing unbruised intact and scarcely exhausted in the face of defeat. That just simply wasn’t good enough.

Now you would expect this to be the moment where I talk of the great comeback of Alex Sinden. Where I would triumphantly walk across my opponents draping the union jack as God save the King blasts in the background. Whilst the defeats certainly persisted and my hopes of being the first British All-American champion were dashed, the humiliation did not.

Despite not having yet mastered the technique, every time I went out onto the mat, Coach Hunt asked us how we wanted to be described. What we wanted our teammates to think of us. And every time I wanted to be the dog. Whilst I was probably more corgi than bulldog, and could have chosen a more fearsome animal such as the bear or the tiger, I knew that the dog never backed down in a fight. As such I approached every fight with a ferocity I had never knew myself to have. Every time I stepped onto the mat I still viewed this as the same life or death struggle that I had in first match, however now it was my purpose to fight as though the only two options were death or victory. To never submit to any attempt to inflict pain, discomfort or fatigue upon me. And whilst the ISL may not, unfortunately, allow students to fight to the death, only when physics or the rule book no longer allowed me to resist would the match be over.

Whilst I would continue to lose many a match, wrestling has been the only occasion where I found myself extraordinarily challenged. This was not a predictable exam, where you could fall back on your revision and preparation, or a team sport such as rugby where you had the support of your teammates. In wrestling, you are left in an unpredictable environment with an opponent hungry to see you humbled. The prerogative to avert such a scenario fell entirely to you, there was no fallback line, no support your peers could offer you.

Although a sports game is unlikely to be the greatest challenge in my life, in the absence of any other prior significant hurdles, wrestling has instilled in me a great sense of humility, resilience and agency to succeed. And whilst I never attained the victories that I so coveted, I believe that it was the journey that was the true glory. Cliché.

As such I would like Coach Hunt, Coach McLain and Coach Burke along with the rest of the Governor’s wrestling team for supporting and tolerating me this past term.