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From Stitches in the Eye to a Suit and Tie – Balancing the Fellowship as an Olympic Athlete

By Amy Weisensee

We dream of who we want to be from a young age. For Darryl Christian, Fellowship Class of 2004, that dream revolved around wrestling. He started wrestling in third grade and fell in love with the sport, and throughout the years, his dedication opened many doors of opportunity that shaped his life in a remarkable way.

Darryl grew up in Grand Pass, Oregon, and graduated from the University of Oregon in 1999. After graduation, Darryl moved to Colorado Springs to live at the United States Olympic Training Center as a member of the U.S. Wrestling Team, winning two national championships. Five years later, while attending an event, Darryl met then-El Pomar CEO Bill Hybl who exposed Darryl to El Pomar’s Fellowship. Darryl joined the Fellowship Class of 2004 and began the practice of striking a balance between wrestling and being a Fellow.

I asked Darryl what a typical day looked like for him during this stage of his life.

“It was crazy. I had practice from 7:30-9:30 a.m., the Fellowship from 10:00 a.m.-3:45 p.m., practice from 4:30-6:00p.m., and had to travel out of country,” he said. “It was a lot. I remember once leaving the country for wrestling and returning with a black eye. When I returned, I had to give a big presentation while my eye was swollen and bruised,” he said shaking his head. “I tried to do my best as a Fellow with the capacity I had. My motivation came from the ‘why’ behind the Fellowship and what it did for the people of Colorado.”

Darryl eagerly spoke about how many skills were transferrable between the two roles, as they both had a demand of excellence and an element of stress.

“I had to learn when to put on the ‘wrestling hat’ versus the ‘Fellow hat,’” he said. “I really wasn’t prepared for the psychological demand of that. It taught me how important it is to help each other with our strengths. In both wrestling and the Fellowship, I was surrounded by people who made me better. They were people with great ideas, diverse backgrounds, and different strengths. It made me better overall.”

After the Fellowship, Darryl worked for a prominent land developer in southern California for two years and eventually switched careers. Darryl now works for Arthrex, a global medical device company and leader in new product development and education in orthopedics. The demand of excellence he learned early in his professional and wrestling careers allowed him to become Arthrex’s top salesman in the United States. Darryl’s other dream of being a family man has filled his life with joy – he shares life with his wife, Katie, and children Bobby, Kensie, and Ben.

Darryl’s passion for wrestling never dissolved – it allowed him to transition from athlete to coach, where he coached a champion UFC and MMA fighter to 7 World championships. He reflected on how coaching aligns with his professional experiences.

“There’s a satisfaction of completion, whether it be with a project or coaching an athlete,” he said. “I help others improve, and it opens the door for them to what they can achieve.”

Gratitude was a common theme in my conversation with Darryl, and a theme I have found among many Fellowship Alumni.

“The Fellowship is hard and busy, but once you’re in another job, you won’t find the same amazing complexity,” he said. “I hope you value the relationships and the time you have, so when you move forward, you won’t have any regrets.”

I am amazed how Darryl’s journey, and our own journeys, can start with one thing – a dream.

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