Seamus Casey – WY: The Summit Is in the Climb
By Bill X. Barron – RMN Events Writer
What would it take for you to confront your greatest fear? Do you possess the fortitude to not only face that challenge – and then to turn it into one of your strongest assets? When just ten years old, Seamus Casey of Gillette, Wyoming, began climbing at a local recreation center. “I took it on because I was terrified of heights,” admits Seamus. Just the same, he progressed rapidly; by age 11 he had ascended Devil’s Tower on rope belays and just a year later he conquered the Grand Teton.
This personal paradigm shift parallels Seamus’ wrestling journey from a not-so natural athlete to a Wyoming 2019 State Runner-Up at 106 pounds, this year’s only 4A freshman state finalist. Seamus relates: “I was not very good at first. For me, the sport required grit and determination more than athletic ability. Wrestling, like climbing, presented me with adversity and struggle. I have always had to work hard to earn success. With no one to blame but myself, wrestling shaped me into the person I am.”
Seamus established the Campbell County Rec Center’s climbing tower record for consecutive trips without coming off the wall. Yet, increasing the bouldering record to 57 was not enough. With a larger objective in mind, at age 13 Seamus created the “Dream of 13” Triathlon. Seamus relates: “The training was tough, but in order to break my bouldering record (78 times to equal a mile), ride 65 miles and climb Devil’s Tower on three consecutive days, I had to get ready. I decided that the best preparation would be intensive wrestling camps, which I did every other week all summer long; when not wrestling, at night I bouldered 20 laps on the climbing wall and by day cycled 20 miles.”
Seamus continues: “With the Folds of Honor Foundation I found a way to combine my love for climbing to thank those brave men and women who make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. The Foundation provides scholarships to children and spouses of fallen or disabled service members. My event would raise funds for thirteen scholarships ($65,000) for military families who have sacrificed so much for my freedom. I chose the number “13” because there are thirteen folds in the flag that is handed to the families of deceased soldiers, and I was also turning thirteen that year.”
Cites the Folds of Honor website: “Our motto says it best. Honor Their Sacrifice. Educate Their Legacy.” On May 16th, 2019, Seamus hopes to raise another $5000 by climbing 867 feet to the summit of Devil’s Tower twice in one day (13 pitches). Just as Seamus does through his efforts to acknowledge our debt to veterans, RMN Events opening ceremonies always recognizes the unselfish contributions of our service men and women.
For Seamus, “The RMN atmosphere is like no other: the hype, the energy, the fun, the light show, the music. The annual Wild West Championships in my home town of Gillette has improved the level of competition in our youth program, while bringing in competitors from many different states. It has introduced many young wrestlers to a ‘Big Time’ wrestling environment that most would not otherwise experience.”
“My grandfather served in the military and my dream has always been to serve my country,” says the young Wyoming grappler. “I have the greatest respect for those who have risked it all to give us the life we share.” In preparation toward this end, Seamus has attended wrestling camps at the Naval and Air Force Academies, where he earned respectively the Camp Spirit Award and the Gatorade Outstanding Teammate Award.
Cites USAFA Coach and Camp Director Sam Barber: "The sport of wrestling inherently teaches the core values of stamina, courage, and a warrior ethos; those values are also key core values in the Air Force Special Operation Career Field. The Academy being one of the world's greatest leadership laboratories, it just makes sense that we would also share the Air Force core values of excellence, integrity and service in our wrestling camp.”
One of 51 middle school students selected as state representatives for the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, this earned the young patriot a paid visit to Washington, D.C. For Seamus, the trip’s “highlight was laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier."
This experience spawned an ongoing speaking tour which included the Folds of Honor National Gala & Patriot Cup Golf Tournament in Owasso, OK, as well as a keynote speech for the “Ripple Effect” Leadership Conference sponsored by the Colorado High School Activities Association at Colorado State University. Recently, he addressed 650 students at Moffat County High School in Craig, CO to help them “find their own passion and use it to solve problems in their community.”
The now-emboldened Seamus is class president at Thunder Basin High School (WY). Soon he will be the focus of an in-process documentary film featuring his wrestling, climbing and pursuit of service. An Arizona artist has donated a watercolor representation of Seamus’ Devil’s Tower ascent as an auction fundraiser for the truly inspirational “Dream of 13” journey. His dad Paul acknowledges that “Seamus never intended to seek attention. He simply enjoys helping families and sharing his message; his hope is to influence other kids to do the same.”
Later this year, Seamus will team up with three University of Wyoming wrestling legends: Cheyenne’s 4X WY State Champ Bryce Meredith (2X NCAA Runner-Up, 4th), Gillette-born 4X WY State Champ Tyler Cox (1X NCAA All-American), and 3X Meeker, CO State Champ Joe LeBlanc (UW’s only 4X All-American and winningest wrestler with 147 victories). States Seamus: “The ripple effect of giving to others is ten-fold the return you get back in your heart and soul.” It is especially so when your efforts inspire peers and adults to join in the cause.
“The greatest gift my father has given me was getting me into wrestling when I was in 1st grade,” Seamus comments. “It built my character, taught me how to face adversity with courage and how to face defeat with dignity.” Continues Paul: “All I cared about, win or lose, is that Seamus developed character and became a good man. When he reached 8th grade, and after he began his “Dream of 13” project, I told him I didn’t care where he placed on the podium, because I was proud of what he has accomplished in wrestling and in life.”
Pursuing his own dreams, Seamus plans to become a high school state champion, to be a High School Nationals All-American, and to compete for either the Navy or the Air Force. He also “wants young wrestlers to have the same experience I had with a father who encourages me and holds me accountable, but who is also a good friend. Instead of living his own dream of glory through me, he just helped me achieve my own goals. If I have a problem, I can always come to him as a teacher, coach, and dad.”
Paul responds: “Seamus is simply one of the hardest working people I have ever met. He’s humble, possesses a big heart, and as tough as he is, he is extremely loving. His character shows through – he wants to do what’s right. He’s comfortable in his own skin. A kid everyone likes, Seamus makes friends with kids from all backgrounds.”
Seamus proclaims: “Wrestling has given me the confidence that I show in public service and throughout the rest of my life. I now have the drive to be the best in whatever I do.” Rock climbing is now not only a cherished pursuit, but a lifelong metaphor for Seamus’ life journey on and off the mat: “Climbing has pushed me to greater heights, forcing me to seek-out new challenges.”
Wrestling, as life, has taught Seamus to “trust in the process. Drill everything, work as hard as possible, and to keep working hard despite the outcome. A loss or setback teaches you to work that much harder. As I reach for higher levels, each step is humbling, teaching me to grow. Some people think that what I have done is amazing, but I am really just an ordinary kid who found a way to use my passion for climbing to help somebody else. It’s that simple.”
“On the final leg of my “Dream of 13” triathlon,” Seamus concludes, “when I summited Devil’s Tower, I was able to reflect on the diﬃculties and triumphs of the previous days. I thought about the impact this journey has had on my life, in comparison to the lives I hoped to help improve. I came to the conclusion that the debt we all owe to our fallen and disabled soldiers will never be paid, but that I will personally continue to try to make the lives of their families easier, in any way possible, and that I will not stop until all thirteen scholarships are filled.”
Louis L’Amour developed many of his Westerns in places like Wyoming, where the land and the fend-for-oneself lifestyle revealed the “manner of man” within each life-hardened individual. Just like his predecessors, Seamus Casey has discovered at an early age that he has within himself a person of character. His own Western legend in the making, he has remained reachable, teachable, and likeable. For Seamus, the goal is to embrace the climb more than to celebrate the summit.
To learn more about Seamus’ “Dream of 13” Project and to contribute to families of veterans, visit: www.seamuscasey.org.
Climbing Devil's Tower (WY)
Competing at RMN Nationals 2019
On Day 2 of the triathlon, after biking 65 miles from the Campbell County Rec Center climbing wall to Devil's Tower (pictured)
RMN Nationals 2019
Seamus Casey WY - Dream of 13 Picture - Devil's Tower, WY (photo by Will Buckman)
Seamus Casey WY - Campbell County Rec Center climbing tower