Sports have a unique ability to open doors.
Lessons that can’t be taught in a classroom are learned in competition, and sometimes a little bit of fortune can help take someone on an unexpected adventure.
Fort Collins High School junior Stephan Ikeler received an all-expenses paid trip to Mexico at the start of winter break.
He wasn’t there as a tourist, though. Ikeler was there for a wrestling tournament.
“I’d never been to Mexico. It was really interesting because it wasn’t a touristy part,” Ikeler said. “The wrestling tournament was really cool. There were two mats, one was a Greco mat and the other a freestyle mat. The kids were really good, especially at freestyle.”
Ikeler has Mexican heritage from his great-grandparents on his mom’s side.
He was brought in as preparation for a national tournament happening in the spring.
And it all came about with some luck.
Ikeler took part in an Excel Wrestling camp in Estes Park and then another one in Fort Collins. Steve Knight of Excel Wrestling liked Ikeler and got him connected with the tournament in Mexico.
So he was flown down and represented the state of Nuevo León.
He spent four days in Monterrey, going through two-a-day practices. He wrestled at 55 kilograms (about 120 pounds) and was one of the top wrestlers.
“No one except the most educated people spoke English,” Ikeler said. “I understood a decent amount but I couldn’t speak much.”
Ikeler said the laid-back culture was different than home and he really enjoyed seeing the city of Monterrey.
Now he’s hoping the experience will help catapult him to a strong finish to the high school season.
Ikeler competes at 113 pounds for Fort Collins and finished third in his weight class at the Arnold Torgerson Invitational on Saturday.
“I definitely want to win conference and place at state,” Ikeler said.
Follow sports reporter Kevin Lytle at twitter.com/Kevin_Lytle and at facebook.com/KevinSLytle.