By Cara L. Dempski
BOYCEVILLE — It is hard to miss Boyceville’s Garrett Joles when he is on the wrestling mats.
Even in practice, he seems to draw the eyes in toward him. There’s his sheer physical size, at well over six feet tall and 205 pounds, and then there’s the fact that during at least one early-morning practice last week, he tussled with Bulldog assistant wrestling coach Corey Day.
[emember_protected] “We’ve been doing this every day this week,” Day said after head coach Jamie Olson called the whole team together for a moment. “I’ve only scored on him (Joles) four times in a week.”
Is there any wonder, then, that Joles had his pick of college programs to choose from this fall?
The Boyceville senior, who won the WIAA Division 3, 195-pound individual state championship this past February after finishing as a state runner-up the previous two seasons (182, 170), settled on the program he felt would be the best fit for him as a wrestler, and a college student, in the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, saying he felt like the coaches believed in him and cared about him as a person.
The Bulldog wrestler made his commitment official November 14 by signing a National Letter of Intent to join the Golden Gopher wrestling program in the fall of 2018.
Joles said the Gophers first expressed interest in him earlier this year after his state tournament win. They were not the only program interested in him either.
“It was pretty exciting for me when they started contacting me,” he said. “It made me realize that all of my hard work was finally paying off, and that my dreams were becoming a reality.”
Coach Olson said he first heard from the University of Minnesota in April after Joles placed fourth in the 195-pound class at the High School Nationals in Virginia, losing twice to a Missouri wrestler ranked third in the nation.
Both matches were decided by a single point.
Coaches from the Air Force Academy, United States Military Academy at West Point, Purdue, the University of Wisconsin, Oklahoma State, Lehigh University, Nebraska, South Dakota State University, North Dakota State University and Cornell approached Joles about wrestling for them as a college student.
The Bulldog senior won a state title as an eight-grade wrestler according to Olson, who said he knew of Joles’ potential for elite wrestling.
“You don’t maximize potential without hard work, dedication and passion for the sport,” the coach explained. “Garrett exemplifies those qualities and then some.”
As a freshman, Joles’ goal was to win a state title. While Day and Olson thought that was a high bar to set, considering two prior state champions remained in his weight class, but Olson said the now-senior’s defeat of one of those two wrestlers to make it into the final match was a defining moment for the young competitor and drove his confidence to the next level.
According to Olson, what completely sold Joles on wrestling for Minnesota was a day spent working in Montana farm fields this past summer with his future coach, Brandon Eggum.
“Prior to Garrett’s decision, he spent 10 days in Montana visiting cousins on the family ranch,” Olson explained. “During his trip, he was surprised by Coach Eggum when he came to visit him and his cousins. Coach Eggum spent the day with the family harvesting barley and spending quality time with Garrett.”
The Bulldog coach said the Minnesota coach’s willingness to go all the way to Montana to visit with Garrett and get to know his family made it clear to Joles that Eggum would go to great lengths to spend time with him.
Joles said he plans to use his time as part of the Golden Gopher wrestling program to become the best wrestler possible, and improve as a person and an athlete every day. He also plans to use his positive attitude to help others and live each day to the fullest.
But first, the young grappler has to finish his final year of high school wrestling. While he has fond memories of watching two of his teammates win state titles – and then winning a title of his own – Joles said one of the best things about wrestling at Boyceville has been the team itself.
“My biggest accomplishment would be that I’ve surrounded myself with the right group of people who support me and hold true to a lot of the same values as me,” he said.
Olson acknowledged Joles has had the support of the wrestling program, school administration, youth wrestling coaches, and his family, and is grateful on Joles’ behalf for the opportunities the senior wrestler has been given.
The Boyceville coach will miss Joles, he said.
“He’s (Joles) mature beyond his years, and I really have enjoyed the bond we have developed,” Olson said. “We talk wrestling and hunting probably an hour a day or more. I will miss that.”
Olson said having a Division I athlete is a great feeling, and it has been fun to see someone who works so hard reap the rewards of that work.
He also has no fear over how Joles will handle his role in the Big Ten program.
“I think the sky is the limit for him, he understands what it takes to be an elite athlete,” Olson finished. “He takes care of his body the right way, he eats right, gets enough sleep, and his study habits are really good.”
Joles, who heads into his senior season sporting a 119-10 high school match record along with a trio of conference, regional and sectional titles to go with his state gold and silvers, is currently ranked ninth in the nation, all ages and all divisions, at 195 pounds by Inter Mat National rankings.
He has also earned All-American Honors three times – twice at the NHSCA National Tournament in Virginia Beach, Virginia and again at the USA National Tournament held in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Joles is the son of Harry and Kathy Joles of Boyceville. [/emember_protected]