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Former Reed High School wrestler reflects on winning national championship

3-8-22
Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 10:47 PM PST
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DES MOINES, Iowa. (KOLO) - It started as something to keep him out of trouble.

When Israel Casarez was in elementary school he began his wrestling career. The sports most kids participated in didn’t pique his interest the way scrapping on the mat did.

“I knew I had potential once I hit high school,” said Casarez. “I’m beating guys I should be beating and beating guys I shouldn’t be beating.”

When Casarez put on the Reed Raiders singlet he really started to find his groove. He credits Reed Head Coach Mike Klapp for developing his wrestling style.

Casarez found success.

“I didn’t know if I wanted to wrestle in college at that point,” said Casarez. “I wasn’t reaching out to anyone. No one was reaching out to me.”

Despite being a three-time state finalist and two-time state champion as an upperclassman Casarez wasn’t on the radar of major programs, so he went the junior college route and wrestled at Clackamas Community College.

“I remember leaving and instantly regretted it,” Casarez said of leaving the JuCo ranks. “I knew I had messed up and took a different route in life. I knew that wasn’t the end for me and I had to get back to it.”

Getting back into it meant enrolling at Graceland University halfway across the country in Iowa. After two years Casarez wanted better competition and a new challenge. He found it at NAIA national powerhouse, Grand View University - just an hour north of Graceland. His success continued.

The nutrition program, lifestyle, and coaching Grand View Head Coach Nick Mitchell established helped Casarez reach the NAIA national championship match March 5 in the 157-pound weight class.

“I could hear the difference in both coaching sides. I knew I had it,” Casarez said of his confidence level in the title match.

Tied 1-1 at the end of the final period, Casarez got a takedown in sudden victory to claim his first crown.

“(The win) just validating that we’re doing it right and only continue to keep going,” he said.

Casarez will keep going at Grand View. He will have a chance to defend his title next year, and an opportunity for a year after that if he wants it.

“Shout out to the city, shout out to my parents, shout out to my family. Did that for y’all,” Casarez said.

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