Des Moines — When I moved to Humboldt after four years of undergrad at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, the sport of wrestling was like a foreign language for me.
For parts of the game, it still is, sometimes I can’t tell the difference between a chicken-wing and half-nelson.
But Joey Busse, Chad Beaman and the rest of the Humboldt wrestling community have inspired a flame that won’t shortly be put out.
You see, I wasn’t directly involved with the program when I first moved here, I knew parents, I knew the athletes, but long-time mat-side announcers Keel Zinnel and Steve Reimers were the seasoned veterans of the game working independently for us here at KHBT.
Until they weren’t.
When Steve and Keel decided to ride off into the sunset, I was — for lack of a better term — thrown to the wolves.
I embarked on a journey of trying hard to fit in.
Fitting in with people that were savants of the game. Fitting in with people who loved it more than I did. Fitting in with people — sorry wrestling fans — who are just downright nuts about the sport.
But there’s something so intrinsic about the game, especially here in the great state of Iowa and at the pinnacle of it at Wells Fargo Arena.
I obviously never participated in wrestling, but even from afar I could tell one man was head and shoulders better than the rest, match after match and tournament after tournament: Joey Busse.
See, it was Busse — and his wonderful parents Terry and Chelle — who took me in and acted as my wrestling god-parents.
I, the wrestling infant in this analogy, would sit and have them discuss wrestling nursery rhymes — stories of the past, what moves are what, who’s good, who’s not and what Buzzard Billy’s is all about (bring cash).
It was during this stage, that the seed was planted.
I’ve always been told I was stubborn, to a large part I agree. I never thought I’d like wrestling and all the crazy that comes with it.
Turns out, I was way wrong.
Last night when Joey Busse, Humboldt’s undefeated 47-0 senior, claimed gold over West Liberty’s Will Esmoil, emotions flew through me I didn’t know I had.
I think that’s when it sunk in about just how hard it is to reach that mountain-top and how amazing it is to even be a small part of this community.
Only three wrestlers from each class every year get gold placed around their necks. It’s the most exclusive club in high school sports and this time one had “Humboldt” scribed across his singlet.
“I know it sounds cliche, but words cannot describe it,” Busse said when asked about earning gold.
“Being down there, looking up at the wave of white t-shirts and all the Humboldt people going crazy; there is nothing like it.”
Busse fell behind early in the first period, 2-0, but said he didn’t panic and didn’t overthink things, even on the grandiose stage that is Saturday night at the Well.
“Anytime something goes wrong, three deep breathes and keep wrestling,” he explained.
He credits his coach, the stoic Chad Beaman and his own family for helping him during this long — sometimes winding road to the top.
He said without them there’s no…this.
“Coach Beaman is a great coach, all the other coaches are great guys. Coach Beaman is such an influence on me, and not just as a wrestler, but in life…[and to my family}, who has done everything I could have asked them to do over the years, they have supported me in everything. I didn’t win a match my kindergarten year but they kept having me try it and stick it out. My brother was a basketball player so I grew up around that, but they kept pushing me.”
This moment, the one we all lived in yesterday, will be remembered by all for a very, very long time.
That’s the beauty of residing in Humboldt.
Stories of Kevin Dresser and Tony Ersland claiming gold were told to a young Joey Busse.
Just like the youth wrestlers of today will hear stories of Joey Busse staking his place among Humboldt’s legendary wrestling pantheon.
With the win, Busse is the first Humboldt wrestler since 2008 to earn gold and the 8th state champion Chad Beaman has coached.
I’ll leave you with this last quote Busse gave me, which more or less solidifies the thesis of this column:
“Our wrestling team is a family there is no other sport like this. It’s a four-month grind between cutting weight and everything. You have to love everyone you wrestle with. Every kid on the team, every coach…it’s an awesome environment.”
“I’m really going to miss it.”
I’m going to miss watching you too, Joey.
You have ignited the wrestling fire within me.