With a fighting spirit and an old soul, Cole Rees was meant to stand out in college wrestling.
Growing up in one of the coldest, most snow-ravaged cities in the United States, Rees has had excuses frozen out of him years ago.
As if the harsh conditions weren’t enough to teach somebody to grit your teeth and “get through it,” Rees took up an interest in wrestling at a young age. It’s a sport where you can’t hide behind anybody and where nobody can pick up the slack for you. To make it to the D-1 level takes sweat, skill and elbow grease.
In addition to being a product of his environment, Rees was in the prime years of his MMA fandom when he saw one of the greatest fights in the history of the sport at UFC 189.
Robbie Lawler vs Rory MacDonald was the fight that changed the way fans looked at “digging deep.” Whether it comes to physical pain, bad weight cuts or bad positions, Rees and most other fans of the sport take one look at Lawler’s split lip and MacDonald’s battered face to start the fifth round and find a way to dig a little deeper.
In a sport centered around digging deeper than the guy next to you and across the mat from you, Rees’ world is as black and white as it gets. Work hard or watch others celebrate.
The redshirt freshman is stepping back into old form this year for the first time in a while and reminding himself just how much work he’s willing to put into each match with the first step down in weight in recent memory. After a life of cutting weight without ever coming up short, Rees is reminded all over again about one of his least favorite part of MMA, fighters missing weight.
“I never missed weight, so they shouldn’t miss weight either, but I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes,” Rees explained. “I just don’t think there’s any excuse for it.”
Regardless of the fighter, and with a few exceptions regardless of the situation, it’s hard to convince a wrestler who cuts weight more often in a year than fighters may cut in a career to have sympathy for a fighter who falls short.
Rees explains that fighters don’t necessarily get “too much support” from their teams for missing weight but explains that if he ever missed weight by an ounce let alone a Khamzat Chimaev 7.5 pound miss, his gym experience would be a whole lot different.
It does bother Rees for fans who have never had to cut weight before to judge fighters for not being able to get down to the expected weight, but stands next to them as they applaud the 20% or 30% purse deduction as a penalty.
It all comes down to how much you want it. It may be hard to relate to a fighter or wrestler cutting weight, but it’s important to remember that with every weight miss around the world of combat sports there’s an entire team dedicated to each other enough to power through that exact misery week in and week out for years for the good of themselves and their team.
“I think that your coach can help with that, but it’s more on the athlete to help with that,” Rees said. “Nobody can make that weight for you. It really shouldn’t be your coach’s job; their job is to make you a better fighter or wrestler. Your coach can help you, but he can’t do it for you.”
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