The Paulsons: Journey Thru Adversity
Wrestling Paulsons: Journey through adversity
DWANE MCFERRIN, Staff Writer
Few wrestlers can claim the accomplishments of former Lewis Central wrestling standouts Trent and Travis Paulson.
The twins dominated Iowa high school wrestling with a combined 366-5 record and won five state championships. They earned All-American honors three times at Iowa State and sported a combined record of 221-52 against the rugged NCAA Division I competition.
Trent put an exclamation point on his collegiate career with a national championship at 157 pounds and Travis narrowly lost in double overtime in the semifinals and finished fifth at 165. The seniors led Iowa State to second place at the Division I National Wrestling Tournament for its highest team finish since 1987.
“It is unbelievable. From the moment that my hand was raised I thought of all the hard work and everything I’ve worked for had finally paid off,” said Trent who finished 18th in total wins in Cyclones’ history. “It feels really awesome because I know how many unbelievable wrestlers went through the program and there have been Olympic champions. To have my name among the greats is an overwhelming feeling.”
You can forget about sibling rivalry in this family. Travis was chased away from the stage by a security guard several times in yelling suggestions to Trent during the championship match.
“Watching Trent win the national title,” said Travis, “bar none is the greatest thing I’ve seen in my life. I felt like I was in every scramble with him and was never in such an emotional state about a match.
“As a brother, I know all the work he’s put in and he deserves it. I’ve never been more proud of anyone.”
Success did not come easy for the Paulson brothers. The blue bloods of the wrestling world normally have a strong history of success within the family.
“We had to do it ourselves,” said Trent. “We had no rich wrestling tradition.”
But the challenges facing the Paulson twins in the early years were far greater than lineage, talent or even wins and losses.
“We always had an abundant amount of energy when we were little. We were off the wall and had to learn to focus our energy and grow up a lot,” said Travis.
Trent took it a step further.
“My parents said that we were ornery and a lot of people didn’t want their kids playing with us because they thought we were a bad influence. Some wanted to put us on Ritalin, and my mom wouldn’t have any of that. She always knew we could put our hyperactive energy into something positive and that’s where wrestling came in.”
Parents Nick and Mary Ann Paulson made many sacrifices in channeling the twins’ energy to wrestling.
“Even when we were little kids,” said Trent, “they took us all over the country. That’s how we were able to get the experience we needed.”
During middle school, the Paulsons heard more concerns.
“There were some teachers,” said Trent, “that were warning that we would never make anything of ourselves, we wouldn’t be successful at wrestling because we were too bad of kids, we’d lose interest, blah, blah, blah."
“Some people didn’t even think we’d graduate from high school, let alone become a national champion.”
Trent and Travis proved the doubters all wrong. Both earned Academic All Big XII honors and will graduate with 3.0 and 3.5 grade point averages.
“You don’t have to be smart,” said Travis, “to get good grades in college but have to be organized and work hard.”
Further, the brothers have become role models for young wrestlers.
“I never thought about the fans as I started my college career,” said Travis, “as I was focused on my goals and that just came along with it. Now parents come up to me and tell me I’m a great role model for their son. Athletics gave me a disciplined life and overcoming adversity teaches you can overcome everything.”
During his freshman year of high school, Travis had to lose 20 pounds after the Christmas break and went on to win the state title at 112 pounds.
“I saw the sacrifices he had to make to get down to that weight” said Trent. “I saw how that hard work paid off and it was the beginning of disciplining ourselves to accomplish our dreams.”
In their junior year at Lewis Central, Travis tore his ACL just prior to the season. Surgery was delayed and he wrestled with a knee brace. After hitting the weights, Travis returned to the lineup stronger than ever. He moved from 140 to 145 and Trent sacrificed to cut his weight from 145 to 140. Never again did Travis wrestle at a lighter weight than Trent.
“When I tore my first ACL (he tore his other ACL in college), I learned I’m not invincible,” said Travis. “There are no guarantees in life.
“I never get burned out anymore because I know what it’s like to sit on the sidelines. Everything in life is how you react to it. I learned that from my knee injuries.”
The last thing fifth-year seniors would want is a coaching change. That happened when legendary coach Bobby Douglas stepped down and was replaced by Olympic gold medalist Cael Sanderson.
“When the coaching change was first announced,” said Trent, “it was hard to take because we had been with Coach Douglas for the past four years. He would call two to three times per week just to check on how we were doing.
“He was like a second father figure so to get that announced our senior year and to have a completely different system with a new staff was pretty shocking, but in the long run, it was definitely a good change.”
Before the season started, the coaching staff came to their home and made it clear that the success of the season depended in great part on the twins. Coach Sanderson asked them to embrace the new system, not resist the change, and lead the team to glory.
The rest is history as the Paulson brothers set the pace on a team full of underclassmen to win the Big XII title and second place at the national tournament.
“From day one,” said Trent, “the coaches introduced a new mentality for ISU wrestling.
“Our main goal was whoever we wrestle, to have the mentality that they will never want to wrestle ISU again. Wrestling is an opportunity to do something great”
There is little doubt that the twins have helped each other achieve greatness.
“I feel so blessed to have Travis as a brother,” said Trent. “It’s like God was looking out for me. Every time I wanted to work out, I had someone my size, similar strength and similar ability. He pushes me way harder than anyone else does. Nothing that I’ve done would have been possible without him. He’s someone I look up to. He’s my hero.”
Despite being three-time All Americans, the duo has remained confident, but not arrogant.
“It is definitely the way we were raised,” said Travis. “Our parents told us that when winning not to crush someone else’s dreams and goals. I like reading the Norman Vincent Peale books and how you want people to remember the type of person you are and I want to be remembered as having class.”
Next up for Trent and Travis are the Trials for the World Championships and after that they have goals to win the gold medal at the China Olympics in 2008.
“I didn’t get what I wanted this year but it was special being part of this team” said Travis. “I don’t take things for granted and adversity makes me hungrier to make the Olympic team and get the gold medal.”
For the World Championships and Olympic wrestling, there are only eight weight classes. The weight loss sacrifice will go to Trent as he will compete at 145. Travis plans to wrestle at 163.
Talk about sacrifice. Nick and Mary Ann have not missed one match during the twin’s collegiate career