My story actually started in sixth grade when my mom suggested that I go out for wrestling. I had brought home a flyer from school in my bag, but I hadn't asked to wrestle because I figured I needed to help on the farm. It was winter time and my mom wanted me to go out for a sport. I said yes, I wanted to, and the rest is history. I wrestled from 6th grade until my 2nd year in college. I loved every second of it. It was something that I was good at. I remember placing 6th at State my senior year thinking I wanted to keep wrestling. The idea that I would never wrestle again was disturbing to me.
I wasn't recruited out of High School. So I walked on at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. I really enjoyed wrestling. But I was also enjoying partying a little to much in college and ended up being kicked off the Team because of my GPA. What happened next was the assistant Wrestling Coach asked me if I would like to train in Muay Thai. I wasn't wrestling, so I said sure, I would love to learn to kick really hard. I was lucky Dan (the guy who asked me to train) had trained in JKD, Muay Thai, Boxing ect.. This was kind of my first introduction besides wrestling to Martial Arts. We eventually watched a copy of the UFC together and then we bought the 2nd one. I remember watching most of the guys thinking and believing I could beat everyone besides Royce. Royce, of course, seemed superior because he knew Jiu-Jitsu and I had no idea what he was doing.
I remember thinking to myself " I have to learn this Jiu-Jitsu stuff". The idea that Royce could beat me bothered me greatly. I know the idea that a wrestler who wasn't recruited out of High School. Being worried about being the toughest man alive is really crazy. But I was. I had a strong belief that I would thrive in MMA. The combination of wrestling, hitting people, and being tough. I really thought I would succeed at and eventually be the best at. But my biggest problem was I lived in Northern South Dakota. With the nearest legitimate BJJ School being in Dallas Texas.
So I bought a copy of Renzo Gracie instructional that he had. This is before DVD it was a VHS tape. So we would pop the VHS tape in the VCR push all the furniture out of the living room and start drilling moves. Then this would usually lead to us grappling in the middle of the living room. Putting holes in the rent house walls. Eventually my buddy Dan moved to Dallas Texas. He called me all excited that he had found Carlos Machado's gym and was going to start training there. I was incredible jealous. Dan was going to be able to kick my ass with all this hands on instruction he was going to be receiving from Carlos. So I made up my mind right then that I was going to visit Dan over Spring Break. Keep in mind I had never been out of the tri state area since I was 10 years old on a family vacation when we went to California. I was a broke college kid but I was determined to not get my butt kicked by Dan the next time I saw him.
So I started picking up extra shifts at the bar I worked at as a bartender. I managed to save enough money for gas food ect.. to head to TX and train for 10 days. I brought along a video camera and would record part of the training so I could come home and drill the moves I learned. Plus I was taking notes like a mad man. That first trip was a huge learning experience for me. Not only did I discover real Jiu-Jitsu training but I discovered a whole new world in Dallas, Fort Worth. I really think that trip changed my life forever.
Before that trip I was a High School/College level wrestler that was a tough kid. But new very little about the World that surrounded him. Granted I could walk on to any farm and work/make a farm hand wage in-between Dallas and Aberdeen. That first time I stayed in Dallas I was surrounded by people who worked in different industries. In South Dakota I new farmers from small towns that supported farmers. I know what you are thinking, how did being exposed to all these different people change me? I think it made believe that I could make it out of my comfort zone. People were just people and I could move anywhere in the world and I would figure out a way to accomplish my goals.