MASON – Seth Bunting remembers the car ride being “dead silent.”
It was Sept. 19 of last year. Bunting had spent the early hours of the day at a friend’s house. He got a call from his father to let him know that he was getting picked up. When his dad arrived and Bunting propped himself up into his dad’s truck, he could sense something was wrong.
It took until the tail end of the 20-minutes drive back home for him to realize why his father was speechless.
“He told me later on in the drive, because it wasn’t a short drive,” Bunting recalls. “He kind of just went into it and said, ‘You know I love all you guys, right?’
“I remember pulling up to the house … there was an ambulance in the driveway, there were cops there.”
Bunting, who had just entered his junior year at Mason High School at the time, learned that his 17-year-old brother, Branden, had been killed in a hunting accident that morning. The night before, Branden’s hunting trip was the topic of conversation between the tight-knit brothers. It was the last conversation Bunting was able to have with him.
“Honestly, for a couple weeks there, (my mind) was just numb,” Bunting said. “I didn’t remember anything. I couldn’t focus in school.”
There was no escape for Bunting. He was reminded of Branden everywhere he went. Both brothers attended Mason. They were both on the wrestling team. Bunting took the sport more seriously. Wrestling was his thing. Branden participated for fun.
“He was all about hunting,” Bunting said.
As a sophomore, Bunting qualified for the individual state tournament. Last season, Bunting was unable to qualify. He underwent shoulder surgery the day after helping the Bulldogs capture a Division 2 district title, just months after his brother’s passing. He held off his surgery just to help his team grab the title. He said he didn’t care about his individual accolades at that point.
Bunting, who wrestles at 112 pounds, has one more shot at getting back to the state tournament, and he’s trying to make up for lost time.
“Honestly, I was kind of happy I was done wrestling,” Bunting said of his season-ending surgery last season. “I don’t know why.
“(This year) I want to go as far as I can. I want to place (at states).”
Bunting feels he’s past the hardships of last season. He wasn’t particularly proud of his 25-14 record, especially after having only nine losses as a sophomore, and he didn’t like the fact that he was combative with his coaches. Bunting admitted he would argue with them every chance he got.
“It’s always a tough situation, because we consider Seth an elite athlete,” Mason coach Brian Martel said. “You go through that period where you’re really not sure how much to push him. He does get into a funk and a little bit standoffish. I wouldn’t have called him mean or anything to us, he was always respectful, but he wasn’t responsive.
“As a coach, I always wonder about kids like that. Are they ever going to recover? Are they going to get that will to get back on the mat? He stayed with it and wrestled a lot this summer. It was really encouraging. I was really happy to see him take those steps.”
Bunting is 9-2 so far this season.
The senior wants to help his team grow and become one of the state’s elite. He wants an individual state title. He wants to participate in the season-ending celebration where all of the accomplished teams and wrestlers march in honor of their successful seasons.
Bunting just wants to wrestle.
“You could tell he wasn’t really there (last season). He was more to himself,” teammate and friend Cameron Swanson said. “He’s got his head in the game more. He’s pulled himself together. …You can already tell in his matches that he’s more there and he’s ready to compete.
“It always means something to me to see him go somewhere with (wrestling). I’d be very happy for him.”
Contact James L. Edwards III at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.