MINERVA, Ohio – Winners get away with dying their hair blond, wearing silly shirts and boasting about their superior athletic ability.
They get away with it because they excel. They win where the majority fails. And who would dare tease a wrestler about his unmacho T-shirt when he’s proven he is unbeatable.
Chris Hahn’s hair is bleached, he unabashedly admits he’s a natural at wrestling, and he wears his lucky girl’s cheerleading shirt to every match.
Out of breath and dripping with the sweet sweat of a victor, Chris’ arm is always the one the ref raises after the 171-pound match.
The arm, with its muscles still straining from the physical exertion, is molded from summers of hard work on his family’s dairy farm and winters of drills on the wrestling mat.
The Minerva High School junior’s name is already a permanent fixture in the school’s book of wrestling greats. He has two state championships to his name, in addition to a sixth-place state finish his freshman year.
Wrestling vs. farming. The wrestler in him outweighs the farmer. Right now, Chris’ sights aren’t on agriculture or his parents’ Hahn Farms in Minerva.
Instead he plans on wrestling in college, someday being a coach and teacher, and hopefully going to the Olympics.
Until then, he’s resigned to helping with milking (the worst job in the world, he says) and working in the fields.
Although Chris has no intentions of turning from farm boy into farmer, living on a farm has its advantages when it comes to wrestling. Local equipment dealerships and the farm’s hoof trimmer and vet sponsor Chris to wrestle at nationals each summer in North Dakota.
These national experiences continue to add to his growing list of wrestling accomplishments.
Father and son. His cool facade on and off the mat falters with razzing from his dad, John.
It’s a good-natured competition between the father, who once was a record-breaking wrestler, and his son, who has now broken his dad’s records.
The two egos butt against each other during wrestling skirmishes of their own. The result:
Son: “I’m better than him.”
Father: “I was just a strong farm boy, not necessarily good with technique.”
Son: “He never beats me. It’s always some excuse why he didn’t win.”
Father: “I have two bad knees. You’re lucky I’m not five years younger or I could beat you.”
Son: “See, that’s what he always says.”
John, state champion in 1974, may give his son a hard time about who’s stronger, but he later admits that his son is a natural.
And John should know. He’s the high school’s assistant wrestling coach.
Pressure builds. Maybe all this winning is too much pressure on a teenager who just likes fishing with his buddies and looks forward to the end of the wrestling season because the tension finally ends.
This pressure did break Hahn in the middle of last season. It was just for a moment – nine minutes actually – when he let the expectations of perfection from his friends, family, teammates, coaches and classmates get to him. He lost to a wrestler he had already beaten twice.
He said he was most afraid of letting everyone down with his loss. But after losing the match he was surprised: His friends, his coaches, his classmates, told him it was OK and they still supported him.
Memories of that disappointment linger, but he recovered and wrestled the rest of the season flawlessly.
But the pressure remains.
The young athlete admits the thrill of victory isn’t quite as sweet because everyone assumes he’s won before he ever steps onto the mat.
His stats fuel those assumptions: He’s never been pinned. He’s only lost two matches in two years. He’s already broken practically every season and career record at his high school.
Although Chris excels in wrestling, he actually prefers football, if for no other reason than because the pressure isn’t as intense.
Looking ahead. After clinching his second state title, that pressure was off – at least until next season.
The next day, with the congratulatory festivities over, he headed home, looking forward to a summer filled with fishing, hanging out with friends, riding his four-wheeler, playing paintball and finally relaxing.
And now that the season’s ended, his dad quickly points out, it’s back to farm chores, too.
(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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