A local wrestler battles with his dreams - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Fighting for his sport: A local wrestler battles with his dreams

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KASSON, Minn. (KTTC) -- This is the life of Brady Berge.

"You hit the ankle, then you push his head over. You wanna go hard," said Berge.

Berge is a freshman wrestler at Kasson-Mantoville with big dreams.

"I'm hoping to be a Division 1 wrestler that's my goal.  That's been my goal since the second grade, to wrestle at a Division 1 college," said Berge.

He trains hard, and all for a chance to reach his goals.

"You go through school and you focus on school. When you're in a classroom you focus on the classroom. When you're out of school you think about wrestling. I make sure I eat right, I think right, and I focus on the things I need to focus on," explains Berge.

Unfortunately for Berge all the focus and determination in the world can't help him escape a mathematical fact that one local legend knows all too well.

"I think we are the number one sport at the high school level that has fewer opportunities at the college level," says Olympic wrestler and former Iowa Head Coach Dan Gable.

Opportunities for Berge that are dwindling no matter where his heart desires to go.

"There are so many states right now that don't offer the opportunity at the D-1 level for college wrestling, or at any level for college wrestling," said Gable.

It is a sport riding an uneasy roller coaster ride for collegiate participation.  It's a fact that hits home for RCTC wrestling coach Randy Rager.  He is the winningest wrestler in Division 2 history and his alma mater decided to cash in their ticket and get off the ride.

"I get calls from the alumni from the University of Minnesota Morris, and I tell them I'm not gonna send you any sort of money or support unless you reinstate the wrestling program," said Rager.

Like numerous other collegiate teams, U.M.M. dropped the program.  It is a choice that Rager thinks is simply a sign of the times.

"The appreciation for it isn't there. Wrestling has always been about hard work and doing the extra effort and a lot of times those values aren't put in our society these days, a lot of times people are looking for the easy way out. Wrestling doesn't coincide with that at all," said Rager.

For Berge hard work and extra effort are part of his DNA.  It's in his blood. A trait he shares with his brother Brock who wrestles for Iowa.

"My brother is a tough kid, I watched him go up through the high school. He's taught me so much to my wrestling to my mentality. Watching him go through college it's going to be tough. He tells me every day that it's tough," said Berge.

It's that difficulty that can turn kids away from the sport and make them one of the estimated 500,000 high school wrestlers who stop their collegiate pursuit.

"One thing you don't want to do, you don't want to let a kid wrestle and get beat, and get beat, and get beat, and quit. You gotta get his hand raised once, so he can realize what it feels like. When you get that hand raised you will realize what the sport is all about," said Gable.

It's the wrestling mentality. When you get knocked down. You keep fighting.  The doors aren't always open but if you keep pushing then there's a chance you can pry it open.

"It teaches me to push myself more. There's less opportunities, but then that makes it that much tougher, and then in my mind I have to be that much better," said Berge. 

That's a mentality he will have to keep up for another 3 years as he battles opponents as well as the ever changing landscape of college wrestling.

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