For some, the dream of wrestling never ends

Updated: October 6, 2012

By Sandy Stevens

Editor’s Note: This column appeared in the season preview issue of WIN magazine, Volume 19, Issue 1, which ws printed in October of 2012.


Charlie Buckshaw played college football. Eric Orozco built houses for six years. John Marchette installed floors for seven. Trent Sprenkle spent two years on a mission. Many joined the military.

And then they wrestled again.

Hundreds who left behind wrestling after high school, whether for reasons personal or financial, have discovered it’s more than a sport. It’s an addiction.

“It’s the passion of the sport; it’s the people of the sport,” said Marchette, who became an NCAA Division III champion and two-time All-American at age 29 for Augsburg College.

“It’s like a disease. When you get it, you can’t get out of it,” he said. “It’s in your life.”

A 1991 graduate of North Canton (Ohio) Hoover High School, Marchette — who began wrestling at age 5 — was a 125-pound state champion and high school national runner-up before receiving a full ride at the University of Minnesota.

But lacking minimum grades and standardized test scores, he couldn’t attend practices. After one semester, he returned home and began laying carpet.

Three years later, when Marchette’s brother Sonny was a high school freshman, their dad, who supported them from the beginning, died, and Marchette became a volunteer coach for his brother’s team. When Sonny headed to Lassen Junior College, Marchette became the school’s lightweight coach.

Then he decided to attend school himself, promptly winning a junior college national title and gaining the attention of Augsburg.

New South Dakota State head coach Chris Bono said he knew freshman recruit Eric Orozco was the right fit for the program when Orozco told him, “I realize I need an education.” Not only was he serious about schoolwork, Bono said, but Orozco had also made a lifestyle change, including shedding body fat.

A two-time California state qualifier for Porterville’s Monache High School, Orozco began residential construction right out of high school in 2004.

“I was young in the head,” he explained.

When the economy began slowing, his thoughts turned to college.

“If I’m going to school, I have to wrestle,” he decided. “My high school coach Arthur Demerath knew I was still capable of it.”

Two years and a 133-pound state title at West Hills Junior College in LeMoore have brought the 26-year-old to the Jackrabbits, where he’s majoring in geography with a physical education/education minor.

“I’ll possibly go into teaching,” Orozco said, “but I’ll definitely be coaching.”

Jeremy Stierly garnered 121 wins and was a AAA state placer at Owen J. Roberts High School in Pottstown, Penn.; yet he spent the next year without wrestling at Penn State Berks College.

“I commuted to decide what I wanted to do in terms of wrestling and school,” he said, “but I’d go to high school practices and wrestle around with the guys.

“When the season came around and I knew I couldn’t compete, I realized how much I loved the sport and how much I wanted and needed to get back in it.”

He transferred to Ithaca College, and although he didn’t initially start, he became a three-time NCAA finalist and one-time champion. He completed a degree in business administration, followed by an MBA.

By the time Trent Sprenkle graduated from Billings (Mont.) Senior High School, he’d won three AA state championships and been promised a wrestling scholarship at North Dakota State University … following his Mormon mission.

For the next two years, Sprenkle didn’t touch a mat.

“When you prepare for a mission, you’re prepared that it’s going to be 100 percent dedication, and I had faith that my skills would come back,” he said.

Yet the return was difficult, he said.

“The coaching staff made transition easier as I was putting the moves to muscle memory. I was the same weight; it was just getting my body back into shape.”

The NDSU senior has made the NCAA Round of 12 the past two years, and a 3.74 GPA earned him Scholar All-American status.

Generations of grapplers have entered the military and eventually wrestled in college — Glen Brand, Bill Koll, Bill Farrell, Randy Couture, Lew Massey, LaRock Benford, Charlie Jones, Kirby Keith, to name just a few.

Following military service, Chris Vike became one of the oldest modern-era All-Americans in 1999 at age 29 for Central Michigan.

The Wisconsin state champion from Stoughton had dropped out of community college after just a month. “I was too immature,” he recalled. “I wasn’t ready to handle school at that time.”

Vike wrestled with the Marines for eight years.

“I knew I could reenlist, but I’d always had the desire to compete at the Division I level, so I made the decision to chase that dream,” he said.

A regional manager for an insurance company, Vike serves as a volunteer coach at Minnesota’s St. Michael-Albertville High School.

A two-time all-state linebacker and 167-pound AA state placer for Cory, Pa., Charlie Buckshaw entered Indiana University of Pennsylvania (which was dropping wrestling) to play football.

“I’ve always loved both sports, but I committed myself to a year to get bigger, stronger, faster,” he said.

“I think all kids go to college thinking, ’I’m going to be the next pro football player.’

“That was part of it, but I missed wrestling. I missed it desperately. I just missed the sport, the competitiveness. You’re competing with yourself more than anything.”

After one year, he transferred to the University of Chattanooga, where he won three conference championships and twice finished just one win short of All-American.

Later, he would give back to the sport, as a high school assistant coach for five years.

“Wrestling’s a lifestyle, a culture,” Buckshaw declared. “It’s a fraternity.”