The last time Bryce and Shadow Leshen were on the mat, it was serious business.
Prior to last week, the Albia brothers hadn’t wrestled since competing on the grand stage of the Iowa High School State Wrestling Meet. Both had successful runs to the semifinal round of their weight classes, with older brother Shadow making it all the way to his second straight state championship match.
Since then, neither Bryce nor Shadow had been working quite as intensly as they had been prior to the state meet. That didn’t stop both from deciding, on a bit of a whim, to enter the 15th annual Rocky Mountain Nationals.
“We were originally going to go out there to help coach the Young Bucks, when we saw that both Shadow and I could enter the tournament too,” Bryce Leshen said. “It was pretty much like a vacation out there for us. It was great to get out there and see what the rest of the competition around the country is like.”
The end result was very successful for Bryce, who just finished his freshman year by finishing fifth at state. The youngest of the three state-qualifying Blue Demon brothers brought home the 137-pound championship in the 15-and-under division, winning easily over Mike Berg in the title match 8-1.
“It’s pretty fun going out there. You have no clue about the competition out there," Bryce said. “There are good kids from several different levels. You feel pretty proud when you can overcome that.”
“Bryce is very strong mentally. He makes up his mind that he enjoys winning more then anything,” Bryce and Shadow’s uncle Nick Pickerell added. “No matter what he’s done the past couple weeks, he’s going to go out there to be on top. He hates to lose more then he likes to win. He was bound to go out there and win.”
With only oldest brother Brett missing from the equation, the current first family of Albia wrestling descended on Colorado initially to lead the Young Bucks youth wrestling program into the competition. With Nick busy leading the youth wrestlers in the competition, Bryce and Shadow were left to wrestle and coach each other.
“It was a little different coaching,” Shadow said. “I just let Bryce do what he though was the most comfortable.”
“I take full responsibility for Bryce’s victory,” the older brother joked.
Shadow, who has made it to the state championship match each of the last two years, finished third in the 126-pound 18-and-under division, finishing with a 10-7 win over Phillip Gonzales.
“Wrestling in a national tournament is a good chance to see where I’m at,” Shadow Leshen said. “Next time I go up there, I expect to win the whole thing.”
After competing in a tournament that featured 2,000 wrestlers from all around the country, both Bryce and Shadow are continuing to build toward what both they and older brother Brett hope are championship seasons next winter.
“I’m keeping in shape. I run out on the track and I’m playing on the soccer team,” Shadow said. “I do go in and work on some shots whenever Young Bucks practice is going on.”
While the schedule has lightened up considerably since this past winter, training for a championship season will soon pick back up according to the brothers’ uncle and coach.
“This tournament was more of a vacation. Once summer comes around, we’ll get back into it,” Pickerell said. “If you’re not doing it, that can be the difference between being a state champion and not making it. The guys will work hard to get there and my goal as a coach is to keep them motivated.
“They may not want to get up every day this summer, but I’ll make them get up so we can have that ultimate success.”