Where Excellence Is a Journey Not a Destination
The Story of Charlie Bergeson – Texas
By Bill X. Barron
For many wrestlers, young and old, the ultimate objective is to win each match. While 11-year old Charlie Bergeson wins far more often than he loses, he has learned to cherish what he can learn from his losses more than dwell on the ephemeral victory moment. Charlie says: “Losing a match teaches me what I did wrong and what I should fix.” Charlie also learned not to count on victory before it has happened; in one of his early career matches he thought he had pinned his opponent, but when the match continued, “I rolled over my own back and pinned myself!”
Charlie’s coach at the Texas School of Wrestling, where Charlie was one its first grapplers, relates: “TSW is unique in that everyone takes the sport seriously.” Like Charlie, the club “pursues a rigorous tournaments schedule and attends only really competitive events.” Coach Michael Ross continues: “If we just attended local events, our kids would eventually wrestle themselves. For us, RMN not only provides really great competition, but we also compete against kids we don’t see at other events.”
Early on, Charlie’s focus and maturity separated him from his peers. His mom Tracey transports Charlie over an hour to football and wrestling practices, as well as all over the country to compete. She confides that “Charlie will go off to a quiet place to pray and connect with God before each and every one of his matches. I have no doubt that this is where he finds his strength, confidence, and fearlessness. From Day One, he has wrestled with so much heart.”
Those qualities of heart and desire, his superhuman work ethic, and an unnatural focus for such a young athlete is echoed by his club coach, Melvin Lofton of Lofton Style Wrestling: “Charlie is fearless, works extremely hard, and is not afraid to take on anyone.” Charlie also trains with Donny Whitted of Whitted Trained, who proclaims: “You can book it: Charlie Bergeson will be one of the premier athletes the sport has ever seen. You combine his Michael Jordanesque will to win with his willingness to learn, and you have the complete package. Along with his ability to pick up moves right away, Charlie also creates his own unique way of finishing them.”
Charlie relates that he not only prays for success, but also that no one gets injured. Though he realizes that his intensity psyches out his opponents, he also loves the friendships and the travel. While he looks forward to Colorado’s mountains (and the cold air), even more so he enjoys RMN “because it is nicely run, the awards are cool, and there’s always a lot of competition.” At age eight, Charlie’s coach Todd Olson of Punisher Wrestling took advantage of the opportunity to double bracket him in national events. As his mother Tracey asserts: “Throwing him to the wolves early definitely sped up his journey to wrestle amongst the best wrestlers in the country.” Now Charlie regularly double brackets to challenge himself with those who may be more experienced or older than him.
At tournaments, Curtis Borge of Team Rare Breed (formerly Hawaii & now Oklahoma), stepped up to coach Charlie during Charlie’s first RMN Event last season. “They instantly connected,” according to Tracey. “In Charlie’s corner, he made a huge impact. With his help, Charlie became the first wrestler to earn the RMN Triple Crown in two different age brackets in the same calendar year. He also topped the RMN rankings at #1 for 10 and under.” Just the same, Tracey reminds us that Charlie has “always been extremely humble about his accomplishments.”
On occasions when his club coach is not present, Brandon Thompson of Wesley (TX) Wrestling Club has also been in his corner. “Charlie is the type of kid any coach would love. He has the intensity of a Zane Rutherford (Penn State, NCAA Champion & O.W.), as well as the heart and drive of a Kyle Snyder (Ohio State, NCAA & Olympic Champion). The kid has never looked like a rookie; he just shows up and wins everywhere in dominating fashion.” A community center club, some of Wesley’s kids have come from disadvantaged backgrounds; Charlie embraces each of them “as a heck of a team sport,” letting each kid know he or she is special. In his rookie year Charlie competed against Coach Thompson’s daughter, yet after every match (he won all 6 times), he would be cheering for her to win the next match.
Wrestling is not the only sport in which Charlie excels; he has served as captain of several undefeated youth football teams, runs the 100-200-400 sprints on the track team, starts for the basketball squad, and he has won a number of Jiu Jitsu tournaments including Europa (which is an RMN-sponsored Brazilian JJ event). On the football team, Charlie is “the smallest on the team but he plays with a huge heart, taking pride in shutting down his side of the field at cornerback. Football probably holds his heart tightest,” proclaims Mom. He also plays running back and catches balls as a slot receiver! A well-rounded person, Charlie also earned the Presidential Award for Academic Achievement in May of 2017. His church youth group is also important in his life: Charlie “hopes that through his actions on and off the field, he can help lead others to Christ.”
To prepare him to meet the best, Charlie has trained all over Texas: he has learned from Coaches Michael Ross, Brock Parker, Alex Munoz, and Shawn Thomas of the Texas School of Wrestling; trained with Melvin Lofton of Lofton Style Wrestling; studied with Donny Whitted of Whitted Trained; and received coaching from Todd Olson of Punisher Wrestling. Coaches Lofton and Whitted rearranged their schedules to accommodate Charlie during the football season. Coach Lofton believes that “Charlie has that ‘it’ factor. He has not only has phenomenal instincts, but he embraces the grind necessary to become a great wrestler.”
Ross and the TSW coaches prefer RMN over other national tournaments. “What makes RMN different is there are wrestlers of all different ages. While the kids get excited about the size of the trophies, as coaches we are enthusiastic about the exposure to kids at a higher level as well as to high school elite wrestlers. It motivates them, shows them what they can look forward to.” To this end, Charlie is a 2X Golden Gear recipient, RMN World Belt champion, and he has won RMN events as diverse as Grand Canyon Nationals (AZ), New Mexico Nationals, Who’s Bad (Denver), and multiple Rumble in Reno tournaments where he was also named Outstanding Wrestler.
All these coaches, as well as the late Mohsen Alirezaei, have impacted Charlie’s character. Charlie declares: “Wrestling has made me a better person. I now know the importance of doing the right thing, and why it is important that I have a caring heart and that I respect others. If I believe in myself and work hard great things can happen. Sometimes things don't go my way on the mat; I have to dig deep and decide how I'm going let it affect me. I have learned that if I can shake it off and stay positive, I can turn things around; but if I handle it badly, it will end that way as well. Every day wrestling teaches me more about myself and life than any other sport.”
Charlie’s journey to the top is only four years in the making, yet it seems like he has been near or at the top for the entire time he has been competing. All that hardware aside, you might just take Charlie for the likeable, caring kid next door that everyone loves to watch and to coach. For him, it is all about what he learns along the way and the friends he makes through his many sports. Charlie may be a champion on the mat, which for some would be the destination; yet more meaningful to Charlie is the journey: how he champions his heart, leads through his character, and inspires with his faith.