By CHRIS WILSON
Stand him on a mat with a white circle around him and give him top-notch competition. Will he be pinned or thrown out? No, he’d die first.
Aaron Holker, three-time state champion and first team high school all-American from Orem High, announced his intent to attend BYU next fall and try out for the men’s wrestling team.
Unlike other sports where the coach decides who will play, wrestlers battle for position in their weight class on a weekly basis. The daily competition in the wrestling room determines who will wrestle in an upcoming match.
Holker’s recent victory at the 1998 National High School Championships in Pittsburgh, Pa. over a two-time Oklahoma state champion has prepared him for the intense atmosphere surrounding the daily wrestle-offs.
“I’ll have to work twice as hard as I’ve ever worked before. Nationals helped me to get a name, but I’ll still have to work hard,” Holker said.
Beginning his wrestling career at the age of five, Holker received support from his father, who also wrestled in high school and went on to wrestle for the Ricks College Vikings. He attributes his success to his father.
“When I would mess up when I was younger, my dad would tell me what to do so I pretty much knew what (move) to do from any position,” Holker said.
Holker was one of only 14 high school wrestlers nationwide to be named first team all-American by Wrestling USA Magazine. Last year he received an honorable mention as a junior from the same publication. Holker’s large list of casualties includes five state champions from Nevada, Wyoming, Utah and most recently, Oklahoma.
“Aaron is probably the most humble and teachable wrestler I’ve worked with,” said Cole Kelly, the wrestling coach at Orem High. “It’s an honor to have a three-time state champion and all-American wrestler in your program.”
Despite his success at the high school level, Holker has a mammoth leap ahead of him. The move from high school to university-level competition is the biggest jump that wrestlers have to make.
“In high school, you can pretty much go off skill alone to beat people. In college, everybody is a state champion or a top-notch wrestler. Everybody’s a top dog,” said Jose Enriquez, who represented BYU at last year’s NCAA Tournament at 118 pounds.
BYU’s wrestling coach Mike Shultz said, he thinks Holker he will make a smooth transition to a university team
“The fact that he’s a national champion will help him out,” Shultz said.
BYU signed six recruits for next year’s wrestling season. Along with Holker, BYU also signed Scott Coleman, a state champion from Kansas, and Russell Brunson, who was the winner of his weight class at the national tournament in Philadelphia. These recruits will help push the team to increased success.
“It’s a plus,” Enriquez said regarding BYU signing so many high-profile high school wrestlers. “There is always a need for a competitive weight room. They’re going to help the room out because they are competitors.”