For Taryn Christiansen the excuses he could make for giving up wrestling are like so many low-hanging apples on a tree. There are so many of them and they're so easy to pick and four apples are especially juicy.
Who wants to drive 100 miles — in one direction — just to practice wrestling for a couple of hours?
Who wants to wrestle a man of 31 — 14 years older by the way — just to get better?
What teenager wants to make those commitments for a sport than never makes ESPN unless it's the Olympics?
What teenager passes on dates and video games and root beer floats and big, fat cheeseburgers and slouching on the couch with the remote control for the unyielding demand wrestling asks?
Taryn Christiansen, that's who. While many athletes speak of "commitment" as if it's a lifestyle when we really know it's a clich?they never employ, Christiansen lives the word. He IS the word. It is the best compliment to give him, carrying more weight than Christiansen being a two-time SCL wrestling champ, more impressive than Christiansen being named to California's USA National Wrestling Team this past summer. His independence fuels that dedication.
"You're out there, on your own, alone," the El Molino senior said Wednesday. "It's all on you."
Christiansen, 17, likes that, not pointing fingers. And he will go to any lengths to be his own man on the mat, in wrestling emporiums in places like San Mateo, Concord, San Francisco, San Jose — places just to practice his craft. Remember that key word: "practice." Christiansen and his father, Bob, will drive to those places to train against premium competition, such as former two-time NCAA champion Travis Lee in San Francisco. Now a mechanical engineer, Lee wrestled for Cornell in the 125-pound weight class. Christiansen, at 195 pounds, will go to Lee, eagerly, to learn technique, how to get faster, how to react quicker, how to learn every trick and strategy an NCAA champion can teach him.
Christiansen will go to Scott Spratt, eagerly as well, to train with SRJC's assistant wrestling coach. Spratt was an NBL champion, a North Coast Section medalist for Rancho Cotate. He is in SRJC's Wrestling Hall of Fame. Spratt is also 31, a father of two and now a clinical lab assistant at Marin General Hospital.
"When I first wrestled Taryn three years ago," Spratt said, "I took it easy on him. I don't get a chance to mess around with him anymore."
Why would Christiansen go to such distances, against grown men, just to practice? Because, sadly, El Molino is a bit short on wrestlers. With declining enrollment at the school, Christiansen doesn't have anyone close to his weight class to wrestle. Of course, that also could be another excuse to pick from the apple tree.
"When Taryn first started wrestling," said El Molino coach Bill Borges, who has taught Christiansen since he was 10, "he didn't just touch his toe in the water to see how it felt, if you know what I mean. He jumped right in. I have wrestled him every year, to get him better. But this year I stopped for the first time. He's just too big for me now. There were times I could hardly get out of bed in the morning after I wrestled him. And I couldn't afford that. I'm a painting contractor. I have to be able to go to work."