Mark Hall: All I Can Think About Is Being Eternally Grateful
Where do I begin?
I could start from the beginning, winning the NCAA Championships and becoming Penn State’s first true freshman to do so. I could start in the middle, losing to the same guy two years in a row, one of the times after beating him in front of the greatest fanbase in the world. I could start with the end, becoming the leader and teammate I have always envisioned myself being and battling with the team that just couldn’t seem to catch a break.
No matter where I start, though, the end is all the same. I, along with every other senior student-athlete, had my last time to compete cut short. As hard as it was for our electric fans to fathom, it was even harder for us as competitors to cope with.
But to me, all I can think about is being eternally grateful.
Sure, I missed another opportunity to let it fly like I always do. Sure, I missed one more chance to compete in a Penn State singlet. And sure, I will always only be a one-time NCAA Champion, because I didn’t get the chance to go and take my second one from the other 32 competitors at my weight class. But the reason I am grateful is because I know that I do not see myself that way and that I am so much more than a wrestler.
Being a part of this Division I program has been a blessing hand delivered from God. I was only able to compete for four years, but the friendships are everlasting. The hardships were frequent and setbacks came and went, but the values and standards that I set for myself will be what lasts forever, not my accolades.
My senior year especially, I was able to take a step out of my athletic bubble and meet some of the greatest people who serve the university in so many different ways. This year has been a year of growth. I walked into this great university as a boy. Now, I am walking away from the program of the decade (and there isn’t a close second) as a man.
From the time I pulled my redshirt in 2017, I never missed a match, dual, or tournament. That means I never missed an opportunity to compete, no matter what I was going through.
If my college career couldn’t end with another NCAA title, I am proud to finish it on the next best note: with a Big Ten title. This is a thank you to our supporters, our fans around the globe, and to Penn State for helping me find a new home for my heart to settle in. There is no place like Pennsylvania State University.
And there never will be.
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About the Author
Garcia is the first known Penn State student to die after contracting the virus.
“We will no longer sit back and watch as the university continues to disrespect and misuse its BIPOC students.”
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