Seconds fly by in a lifetime and most ticks go unnoticed.
But St. Paul's junior Jack Mutchnik will never forget the two seconds he enjoyed on the mat during the National Prep wrestling championships at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., on Saturday.
Trailing, 4-3, to nationally ranked Judson Preskitt of Pennsylvania's Wyoming Seminary in the championship match of the 126-pound weight class with those two seconds remaining, Mutchnik scored a sudden takedown to earn a thrilling 5-4 decision.
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With the victory, he became the third National Prep champion from St. Paul's and the school's first in 31 years.
Mutchnik, whose mother, Renee, is the director of marketing and communications at The Baltimore Sun, also won Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association and Maryland Independent Schools titles this year. He finished with a 47-5 record this season. Mutchnik, who maintains a 3.6 grade point average, is 140-26 in three seasons on the varsity squad.
What were those final two seconds like?
There was the two seconds to go, and I jumped the whistle to try to get a head start and I got cautioned. All I heard was one of my coaches say, "Move into him, just move into him." We were expecting him to back up and me try something, but the kid actually shot in, and I caught an under hook and I threw it by and landed on top of him. It was so fast that I didn't even realize what I did. I've watched the video like 10 times and just seeing my coaches' reactions. It was like "Wow, I can't believe I did that."
What did you learn about yourself in that time?
I learned that after all these years of coaches trying to implant that thought that if there's still time on the clock, there's still time to wrestle. That finally kicked in and came true, because with two seconds left I was still wrestling and managed to get that takedown. And just the fact that all this hard work that I've put in this season and to come down to those two seconds and all the energy I had to put into that was just awesome to know that it all paid off.
How did the season unfold for you?
This year, it started off a little shaky and I didn't do as well as I would have liked in some of the bigger tournaments like the Beast [of the East] and Powerade. But from those two tournaments on, I just pushed myself to the limit, coming in the mornings early and running and lifting and getting in some extra work with the coaches and believing in my wrestling. And then it finally came all together at MIAA, [MIS] states and preps. It's basically like, "Wow, if that's what it takes to get here, I'm going to do it next year and push it even further." The more work I put in is obviously helping out, so I want to keep at it.
What does wrestling mean to you?
It means the world to me. It's basically my life and has taught me so many lessons. I've been doing it since I was 3 years old. [Olympic gold medal wrestler] Dan Gable has a saying that, "Once you wrestle, everything in life is easier," and I find that to be so true. Just through everything we do — you find yourself at practices to the point of breaking, and that just teaches you in life to keep pushing. And just like the match, it wasn't over until it was over.
How does the discipline that's needed in wrestling help you in other areas of your life?
It definitely teaches me to stay calm in certain situations and to keep pushing through. I would say the biggest thing that wrestling helps me with is knowing that it's OK to go for help. We have seven great coaches on this team, and I can go to any of them for help. And it teaches me that it's cool if I'm also having trouble in a class, that I can go for help and they are there for me.
What do you enjoy most about wrestling?
I would say it's my competitve itch and the fact that with wrestling, everything is on you. Knowing you can bring yourself to that top level just makes me love the sport so much. If I push myself hard enough, I can be No. 1 in the nation and go to a Division I college and try to make it to the NCAAs.
What is the toughest part of wrestling?
I would say it's the practices and getting the mind prepared. Practices are two hours of going as hard as you want to make yourself better. I have partners and coaches in the room that push me, and you bring yourself to that breaking point and then it shows off on the mat. The other thing is getting your mind ready and that was a big issue for me this year — knowing what I wanted to do when I got out on the mat.