Tattoos with meaning and memories |

Tattoos with meaning and memories

Joelle Milholm
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Grand Valley's Joe Joyner cheers for his teammates Saturday evening. Joyner, a junior who went 2-2 in the state tournament, has faced his share of hardships, which are expressed through his tattoos.

DENVER ” The battles that Joe Joyner confronts on the mat are nothing compared to the ones he has gone through in life.

From the deaths of his mother and father, to a life in foster care, to seeing his brother in jail for a short time, the 16-year-old Grand Valley wrestler hasn’t had it easy.

His trials are mapped out on his body in tattoos, covering the arms and stretching up onto the shoulders of his towering frame ” the one that puts him in the 285-pound weight class.

A cross on his left forearm, which he got when he was 15, is a memorial for his mother, who died of an overdose when he was younger. His right arm features a Japanese woman, a swan, Japanese symbols for immortality and a yin-yang ” another tribute to his mother, whose Japanese blood runs through his veins.

On his back, he has another tatto, this one dedicated to his brother ” the only family he has left. He lives with his brother, a central figure in his life who turned him onto wrestling and got him out of foster care, and settled into a life in Parachute three years ago.

“He is the one who got me into wrestling,” Joyner said. “He used to box but we don’t have boxing in the valley so I guess he motivated me to wrestle.”

That was nine years ago when Joyner first started to wrestle. This weekend, the Grand Valley junior enjoyed his first trip to the state tournament at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Joyner went 2-2, making it to Saturday’s quarterfinal consolation match before being eliminated.

He didn’t care too much about the exit. He learned a lot in his first trip to the big show, but more importantly he scored points for his team ” one that has stood behind him and has supported him through his hardships.

“I would not be here without my team. I’ve had a couple of downfalls, couple temper tantrums, but they’ve stayed behind me and now I am working for them,” Joyner said.

“All that matters is the team.”

His two victories at state helped the Cardinals win their first state wrestling title in school history. His 17-14 record is good for any wrestler, not to mention one who doesn’t have the luxury most of his opponents do.

“He rolls in without that support. He’s gotta be self-motivated. That makes him a special kinda kid,” said Grand Valley head coach Rick Gallegos. “He doesn’t have mom and dad to get him those brand new shoes or take him over the mountain to wrestle at Rocky Mountain Regionals, nationals, things like that. He doesn’t have that. He has to be self-motivated and push himself and rely on his teammates to give him support.”

Joyner admitted he was blown away when he arrived at state and hit the mats in front of the crowded seats at the Pepsi Center. He overcame his nerves however, still thinking about his squad.

“I was flabbergasted. My heart was pumping,” Joyner said. “I felt like I was going to upchuck. But it felt good to be here for once, to be here for the team.”

Now his wrestling season is over, but he’ll be back with the Cardinals next year because every time he looks down at his wrist he sees his reason to push forward.

He’s got to add meaning to another tattoo ” a Japanese character meaning success ” that’s permanently stamped below his right hand.

“That’s what this is for, I want to make something of my life,” he said.

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