On the road to 100 victories
On the road to 100 victories
Sure, this is a story about character and determination and the rewards that are out there waiting for a young athlete who seizes those concepts with both hands.
But it's also a story about walking a fine line.
For Nate Musser, the winningest wrestler in Conestoga Valley history, the line fell somewhere between accepting expectations he was bound to inherit, and figuring out what really mattered to him.
For Cordell Musser, who three decades earlier followed the path his son now travels, the line separated a father's natural desires from knowing when to put them aside.
"There's a lot of correlation in wrestling and life,'' Cordell Musser said recently. "You're out there by yourself. There's nobody to turn to, you reap what you sow and it's a high-risk, high-reward sport. You get all the credit, but you also get all the blame.
"I don't know who it was that said once you've wrestled, everything else is easy.''
Know this: Easy is not how you get to 100 victories on a wrestling mat. Both Mussers can attest to that.
Because when Nate earned his 100th career victory in December, the Mussers became only the second father-son tandem in Lancaster County history to win 100 bouts each. They joined Solanco's Willard "Wink" Charles and his son, "Wink," in that exclusive club.
How they got there is, of course, where the lines come in.
Cordell Musser, whose 103-19 career record for Garden Spot ranks him among the county's most successful wrestlers, is a two-time District Three champion and a member of the L-L League Wrestling Hall of Fame. He went on to compete at Messiah College, where his 57-10 record still ranks sixth among the school leaders in winning percentage. He built this r'sum' despite losing the lower half of his right leg to a birth defect.
But Cordell did not, and does not, allow the word "handicap'' into his vocabulary.
"I don't think that made a difference for me,'' he said. "It definitely shaped who I am and gave me an identity, but when I was wrestling, I didn't think about it that way.''
Clearly, Cordell was a driven young man. He sees that drive now as a contrast to his son's personality, which he describes as "much more laid back than me.''
From the moment when Nate showed an interest in wrestling, which father and son remember as second grade, Cordell was wary of pushing too hard.
"The idea of going out and wrestling and getting aggressive with somebody, that wasn't him at that age, when he first started,'' Cordell said. "So I tried not to push him too hard.
"I think there was pressure there anyway, just because people would always ask him about being like his dad. ... Which was nice, but it also made me nervous to hear it, because I knew it was going to put pressure on him. ... I think it reached a point where the pressure got to him. It wasn't fun anymore.''
Nate allows that he had to deal with expectations created by his dad's success. Today, though, he seems to have it in perspective.
"I knew my dad was good, I'm expected to be good, so there's definitely some pressure there,'' he said. "But he definitely was able to teach me a lot, help me get better. Without him I probably wouldn't be at the level I'm at now.
"It wasn't always comfortable. Over time, you just sort of get used to it and deal with it.''
CV coach Trent Turner, who has seen Nate grow through four years of varsity wrestling, has a very specific view on this kind of parent-child chemistry. "At some point,'' Turner said, "if the kid doesn't take ownership, he can never reach his potential.''
Turner said Nate made that transition in his sophomore and junior years, and the difference is evident in his 27-6 (to date) senior season.
"I really see him wrestling this year knowing that, 'This is where I'm good, this is how I win. I'm going to create the situation where I can score or keep my opponent from scoring.' And he's very confident in how he wrestles now,'' Turner said.
Turner isn't prepared to speak on just how deeply Nate Musser was impacted by his dad's success. He will say that Nate was motivated to surpass his dad's career victory total, which he has done this year (120-35).
"But Cordell will tell you it's about winning percentage, not wins,'' Turner added with a smile.
However this sport has tested Nate, it seems that his faith has helped him thrive. He revealed as much when asked whether he's ever felt as though he was competing for someone else.
"In my faith, I try to wrestle for God and His glory. I'm definitely wrestling for Him,'' Nate said.
"I don't normally think about wrestling for myself, but sometimes I think about it because I know people look up to me, and my coach and my dad both want me to.
"I don't really see it, but I know, being a senior -- I know how I looked up to the seniors -- they look up to me, so I try to be the best example I can.''
When his senior season ends, Nate's path likely will veer away from his dad's. He's not planning to wrestle in college, at least in part because the demands of an engineering major will be difficult to balance with those of the sport.
"I'm not tired of it, but I'm just ready to move on,'' he said.
Cordell's view is just what one might expect.
"In a lot of ways I'd like to see him do it,'' he said, "but it's got to be up to him. It's not like you do it just for fun.''
It's not like all you learn is how to execute a single-leg takedown, either.
nConestoga Valley's Nate Musser learned about expectations almost as soon as he first stepped onto a wrestling mat. Finding strength in his faith, he also has learned how to keep those expectations in their place.