Caleb Dyer

Caleb Dyer’s room is filled with his trophies and medals from 6 years of competitive wrestling. Photo by Stan Schwartz

It’s all about the competition

BOWLING GREEN—Caleb Dyer’s confidence was strong just two days before he was to go up against the state’s best wrestlers in his age and weight group. For the 12-year-old, it is all about the competition.

“I’m ready he said,” sitting at his parent’s kitchen table last Friday. This was his day off during a week filled with intensive training leading up to he Sunday meet.

Caleb’s confidence is well warranted. The weekend before, he placed first in Division competition. One look at his room in the quiet subdivision off of Rt. 161 tells the story of this remarkable young wrestler’s road to the championships. Six years worth of medals and trophies adorn his walls along with wresting posters and philosophical messages to focus one’s mind sharp. That’s right, Caleb has been wresting for six years—half of his life.

Last year was a big disappointment. After training all year and qualifying to make it to the state championships, the tournament was canceled because of COVID. This year, however, the various age and weight classes were staggered to reduce the number of people in the building.

Caleb’s Dad, Travis Dyer, said it takes a lot of hard work to get to Caleb’s level of competition, and come out on top. Caleb trains at one of the best wresting schools in the country—The Purler Wrestling Academy in Moscow Mills. The academy is run by Nick Purler, a college and high school wresting champion in his own right.

Travis,who also wrestled in high school and college, said he was lucky that Purler’s school was so close, because when Caleb made the decision that he wanted to be the best, he was ready to help his son’s vision anyway he could.

When Caleb talks about training and competing, he can’t help but smile. He enjoys going to the bigger wresting meets because of the challenge of going up against some of the best wrestlers.

“Going to national meets are better than the little local meets,” he said, because of the level of competition is much higher.

Caleb’s older brother, Jacob, also wrestled, but just for one year. After that, he wanted to expand athletic footprint to take on football and basketball.

“He got second in state (that year),” said his mother, Jen Dyer. “He was very good, too.”

If it wasn’t for Jacob, Caleb might have stopped wresting after his first practice. Travis said all the yelling made his son wary of the sport even though he was eager to try it after learning of his Dad’s success in on the mat.

Caleb said his brother talked him into sticking with it. 

Jen, said that during one of Jacob’s matches, Caleb went over to where his brother was competing and stood with the coaches. It was then, she noticed how much he liked wresting.

“They nicknamed him coach,” said Travis, because of how intense he was paying attention to the match.

The pride the whole family has for Caleb is evident by how much they help him achieve the goals he set for himself.

“It’s a trade off,” Travis said. “I told him, that if I’m going to pay for the (wrestling academy) and take the time to drive the 40 minutes to and 40 minutes from practice and be there for the 2½ hours of training, then he needs to put in the effort, as well,” he said.

“You have to eat sleep and breath this stuff,” Travis said. In order to compete at an elite level, he added, Caleb has to train at an elite level. And it’s not just the physical training. There’s a lot mental preparation he has to go through at practice and at the meets where he competes.

All the discipline pays off in other areas of Caleb’s life. He maintains good grades. His last report card had all A’s and one B+, he said. He tries to get all his homework done before getting home. With his day so packed, he said he likes to have a little down time at home before going off to practice.

“His mom is a teacher,” Travis said about Jen, so there’s no slacking in that area either.

“By the time we get back it’s 9:45 or 10 p.m.,” Jen said, “it’s been a long day.”

On the kitchen table Travis laid out some of the previous articles written about Caleb and Jacob.

When he first gets to a meet, Caleb said he looks at the brackets to see whom he will be wrestling. He likes it when he has other good wrestlers to compete against.

“When I go into a match,” he explained, “I go into a mind-set of wrestling smart and staying in good position. And I stay pretty calm, too.” His focus is always on winning the tournament.

“When you go out there and you beat your opponent, you know you’ve been working harder than them or you’re a better wrestler—physically and mentally. When I beat them, I don’t feel that bad because I know I’ve outworked them,” he said.

Although he’s given up a lot to become a top-ranked wrestler, Caleb said he enjoys going to practice and tournaments, because that’s where he sees his friends.

Travis added that sometimes the kids in the neighborhood come to the door to see if Jacob and Caleb want to come out and play. Jacob can, but Caleb is usually at practice training for the next meet.

“I like being around the wrestling world,” Caleb said, “because it is such a good sport.” He likes to watch college wrestling, too, because it’s so interesting. He has his sights set on becoming a Division 1 college wrestler at Penn State. But that’s still a few years away. Until then, he will continue to rack up more wins.

Wrestlers have to watch what they eat, so they can stay in their weight class. Caleb said his dad know what foods and how much of it will help him do that.

Jen added that Caleb usually knows how much food would add to his weight.

Still, Caleb said, he does enjoy chicken wings and burgers or even some pizza, and occasionally ice cream—chocolate ice cream. Before matches, he’s careful what he eats because he doesn’t want to go out there with a “bad stomach.”

“You have to learn portion control,” Travis said. “He’s been doing this so long that he likes salads as much as anybody.”

Travis pointed out some of the bigger awards Caleb has won in his son’s bedroom. If you go to the Missouri Nationals meet, the Missouri State meet and the Ozark Championships and placed first in all three, you were considered the triple-crown winner, he said. At the state meet that year, he also had the fastest pin time in the whole tournament. So far he’s won four state championships. He was also All-American for two years at the Grand River Rumble in Lansing, Mich.

This year, he lost his match in the semi-finals. Travis explained that the two best wrestlers ended up on the same side of the bracket.

“He’s one of Caleb’s friends, and they go back and forth on winning the top spot,” he said. The match went into overtime. Caleb placed third in the tournament.

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