The Real Battle

Oklahoma wrestlers struggle with spiritual questions.

By Jeff Grant   |  22 April 2013
The Real Battle (photo)
photo courtesy Chris McNeil

Athletes in Action staff member Ian McCutcheon (left) meets with Chris McNeil.

“Wrestling here is a war,” says senior Chris McNeil about life on the team at Oklahoma State University. “They encourage you to fight and compete in adversity.”

Just an hour before his second intense practice of the day, Chris sat in a crowded Panera Bread, in pain from the workout.

As a senior, though, he felt obligated to put on an excited face for the wiry freshman next to him. Chris saw his friend and fellow wrestler, Mike Martin, staring at the food while trying to cut weight. He knew Mike was getting beat up by practice every day.

A social butterfly, Chris tried not to get distracted by friends stopping by because, despite the clatter and chatter of the noisy restaurant, God was moving.

Chris had invited Mike to meet with Ian McCutcheon, who works with Athletes in Action, Cru’s sport’s ministry. Chris wanted to hear the multitude of questions the freshman fired off, and he admired how Ian, his spiritual mentor, patiently drew Mike to Jesus with an evangelistic booklet called Would You Like to Know God Personally?

This was the best part of Chris’ day because, even though they would return to what he called an “intense experience of a modern-day Spartan,” his new friend had chosen to find out about the love of God.

Chris warned Mike, “Accepting Christ is just the first step. Now the real battle starts. It’s a whole new level of integrity to know that someone is always watching you and at the end of your life, you’re going to answer for everything. That’s a pretty steep commitment.”

After that, Chris watched Mike become bold about his faith with others. Today, Mike encourages incoming freshmen wrestlers, a passionate group of Christians who Chris says are more involved in ministry than normal.