After the first point, Scott Wendel was ready to give in.
Squaring off against Donald Simmons - a member of the U.S. Marine Corps who had nearly made this year's U.S. Olympic wrestling team - in his first match of the 2012 Beach Nationals and World Team Trials at Rochester on July 13, the 182-pound Wendel thought he felt the muscles in his arms and legs tearing apart as he tried to keep the behemoth in check.
"I was tearing my flesh just to compete with him," Wendel recalled with a laugh. "This guy was a 210-pound block of solid Marine Corps muscle."
Though Wendel, a Lakewood native, was hurting, there wasn't a chance in the world he was going to quit. It just wasn't in his nature, and if he needed a little extra motivation to keep battling all he had to do was think back to how he had overcome that terrible event six years ago in the stairwell of his apartment building in Charlotte, N.C.
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In the Wendel household, treating others without respect was simply not tolerated.
Soon, perhaps not surprisingly, Wendel became an elementary school teacher. It was a place where young people are still learning how to treat and interact with one another, and therefore a place where Wendel could instill, as his parents had in him, the importance of respect.
For Wendel, halting any sort of injustice (bullying, harassment and the like) was second nature.
So in 2006, when he heard his roommate and fellow teacher, who was a woman, being harassed by a group of gang members in the stairwell of his apartment building, he immediately went to help.
As he descended the stairs to aid his friend, he noticed a shadow and then heard three shots. Two of the .45-caliber bullets pierced his right leg, one of which just missed his femoral artery, the third struck him in the lower left calf.
"Maybe it's the way we were raised," Scott's brother, PJ, a wrestling coach at Falconer Central School said, "but we just don't tolerate anybody being disrespected, and these guys were bothering (and had been for some time) his roommate."
Added Scott, "There had been some gang members around the neighborhood that had been harassing people, and being a teacher I have a very low tolerance for that kind of thing."
As Scott, at the time an avid runner who logged around seven miles a day, lay in a hospital bed recovering from his injuries, he listened as his doctors told him he would never run again; told him that his athletic career was over.
Not so fast.
"If you tell him he can't do something," PJ said, "he is going to show you he can. That's what really motivates him."
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That the doctors had told him he would never compete athletically again was just what Wendel needed to hear. And as soon as he was able, he threw himself into his rehab.
"I'm a pretty stubborn guy," he said, "so I attacked my rehab and made some bargains with God. I said, 'If You help me get out of this, I'll use every opportunity I can to do all the things I've always wanted to.'"
That bargain, coupled with his hard work, paid off. Within two years he was already proving doctors wrong and competing in Mixed Martial Arts competitions.
Four years later he found himself on the beach, battling Simmons and a number of other supremely talented wrestlers in a two-day competition to decide who would represent the United States at the World Beach Wrestling Championships in Budapest, Hungary, from Sept. 22-23.
"I think (competing in the Beach Nationals) was kind of vindication for him," PJ said. "To overcome everything that happened, wow. It was really impressive."
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On the first day of the Beach Nationals, Wendel, who in high school wrestled with his brother at Southwestern under coach Walt Thurnau, wanted to bow out in every match.
"My legs were killing me and it felt like the scar tissue (from the still visible bullet wounds) was tearing," he said. "Really I wanted to quit during every match."
One motivator that kept him going was knowing that he had the will, after coming back from being shot, to overcome anything. Another motivation, perhaps as powerful, was making his former coaches, Thurnau and Brockport wrestling coach Don Murray, proud.
"Walt Thurnau was the best high school coach in the country," he said, "and everything I learned about being a man I learned from him. So I always tell people that I'm a product of superior teachers, and I felt like giving up (during the tournament) would reflect poorly on them. Every time I go out to wrestle, I am representing those men. I wanted to make them proud."
Wendel never gave up, and under the watchful eye of coach Murray, finished third on day one of the competition. A day later he finished third again, earning a place on the U.S. national team that will compete in Budapest two months from now.
"I was surprised," he said of his performance. "Going to Budapest was music to my ears. It's a tourist's paradise, and I'm really looking to learn and take part in the cultural exchange, which I think is really important."
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Now, just about two months away from heading to Hungary, Wendel continues to hold up his end of the bargain. Over the summer he spends time with his brother, his niece and his nephew, and at the moment is teaching his nephew to read. He has taken up running again, and he continues to train and ready himself for the competition ahead.
It's hard work, but in light of what has happened, he's glad for it.
"I overcame that adversity, but I think that's why we're here," he said. "It isn't always going to be easy, but I was given a second chance and I want to use it."