All the trophies that Rifle Middle School student Josiah Rider has won on the wrestling mat are just small proverbial journeys to an ultimate destination.
There’s state championships, there’s national tournament championships and there’s titles from smaller tournaments. There’s tall trophies, short trophies, medals and belts, all of them coming after stellar performances at events around the country.
“I want to be a four-time state champion in high school and get a scholarship to a Division I college,” the eighth grader at RMS said. “And if it works out, I want to give myself a shot at the Olympics.”
Rider certainly has enough of a foundation set for those possibilities, and he’ll be trying to build on that already-loaded resume this weekend. He’ll be in Tulsa, Okla., for the Tulsa Nationals wrestling tournament in an attempt to become the event’s first four-time winner from Colorado’s Western Slope.
“They advertise it as the toughest tournament in the nation,” Rider said. “This is one of the only tournaments I go to where I get nervous, because I know what kind of competition I’ll be facing.”
Not that something like that has bothered Rider before.
Rider’s accomplishments have been numerous. He’s won four state titles at the youth- and middle-school wrestling levels, and he’s also a four-time triple crown award winner at the annual Rocky Mountain Nationals tournament in Denver. Also among his awards are 25 titles from national tournaments across the country, and he has been named the outstanding wrestler at eight of those tournaments.
All of those awards, along with others, have helped Rider become the top-ranked junior high school wrestler in two national wrestling publications. He’s ranked No. 1 at 135 pounds by World of Wrestling, and he’s also Nside Wrestling’s top-ranked 145-pound wrestler. Current rankings are based on a wrestler’s results through the end of the 2013 calendar year.
“He’s definitely got the maturity and the drive to want to be the best,” said his father, Trevor Rider, who won a state wrestling championship at Rifle High School in 1991 and has coached his son since he started wrestling. “A lot of kids want to win. But there’s not a lot of kids who want to put in the time and eat, sleep and live it. He’s always watching videos and keeping up on stats, too. He’s like a sponge, because he just soaks everything in.”
The training regimen Josiah keeps depends on what tournament he’s preparing for. A regular regimen for the close-to 20 tournaments he competes in each year consists of two to three practices per week. That practice schedule intensified prior to this weekend, thanks to the level of competition Rider will be facing, as he’s practiced daily now for the past two weeks.
Granted, Rider admitted that the nerves he feels every time he goes to Tulsa will likely still be there, thanks to that tough competition he’ll face. But facing — and beating — people who have padded wrestling resumes is nothing new to him.
“It’s better to wrestle tougher kids, because if you keep wrestling kids who are at a lower level, you’ll never learn anything,” said Rider, who has wrestled up against high school competition for more of a challenge.
“The kids my age, I would pin right away,” he continued. “But the older kids, I’d have to go all three periods and really have to work on my conditioning and technique. I can never out-muscle the older guys.”
He is, however, trying to reach a milestone of sorts this weekend. The only middle school wrestler in Colorado who has won a bracket at the Tulsa Nationals four times is Colton Shultz of Highlands Ranch. The tournament began today, but Rider will wrestle in the upper age groups Friday, with championship bouts scheduled for Saturday night.
And Rider, though he’s aware of the milestone he could accomplish, knows it could prove to be a big step toward the ultimate destination he wants to reach.
“I know there’s a lot of D-I wrestlers who have never won that tournament, and there’s also a lot of D-I wrestlers who have done about what I’ve done,” Rider said. “It’s pretty exciting to know that I’m doing the same things they’re doing and that I’ve set myself up for success.”