BELMOND, Ia. — Cameron Beminio started wrestling when he was 6 years old. He remembers going to practices at Simpson College in Indianola and walking during warmups while the other kids ran. It wasn’t until he was older that he began to take it seriously.
Most of all, he remembers his dad. Anthony Beminio coached his oldest son from the moment he started wrestling until Nov. 2, 2016, when he and fellow police officer Justin Martin were both killed in an ambush early that morning in Des Moines. His dad was just 38 years old.
“Sometimes I can picture what he would say before matches,” Cameron Beminio says. “A lot of the time, he’d say, ‘Get you knees off the mat,’ or, ‘Get more forward pressure.’ He’d always say ‘forward pressure, forward pressure.’ That was pounded into my head as a little kid.
“Even now, when I wrestle, I can always hear his voice in the back of my head.”
More than a year later, Cameron Beminio continues to grapple with the pain of his father’s death. Anthony Beminio loved bragging about his kids’ athletic accomplishments, and Cameron Beminio knows his dad would be proud that he has blossomed into one of the state’s best heavyweight wrestlers.
“I wish he was here,” Beminio says. “This is my senior year, and not having him here really sucks.”
His father’s death came between the 2016 football and wrestling seasons. Beminio dedicated his entire junior season to his dad, going 34-5 and reaching the Class 1A state quarterfinals. Des Moines police officers showed up in support underneath Wells Fargo Arena after his first-round pin. An injury to his left knee while wrestling Jesup’s Brian Sadler forced him to bow out of the tournament.
This year, Beminio continues his hunt for a state medal. Entering this weekend’s district meet, he is 23-2 overall and ranked sixth in 1A at 285 pounds, an impressive feat considering surgery on his knee kept him out until December. Should he get through 1A’s District 3, it would be his fourth appearance at the state tournament.
“You don’t get a lot of kids through the program that can say they’ve been a four-time state qualifier. He’s one of those kids that you can count on day in and day out. You know what you’re going to get when you step on the mat.”
To Beminio, those qualities stem from his father, who had served with the Des Moines Police Department for 11 years. Anthony was a standout athlete at Iowa City West. He played football and wrestled at Northern Iowa, then transferred to Morningside College in 1998 to play football. He provided constant counsel for Cameron throughout his own athletic career.
Anthony won a state title in 1996 for West at 275 pounds, capping a prep career wherein he went 96-17 with 54 pins. That same year, he was a double All-American at the Junior Freestyle and Greco-Roman national championships. He often helped Cameron with the technical aspects of wrestling heavyweight.
“I could never find film, but I saw his bracket,” Cameron says of his dad’s state title. “It was one of those 2-1 matches. I think it was in double overtime or something like that, and he escaped to win. One of those classic heavyweight matches where nobody does anything.”
Anthony Beminio joined the Indianola Police Department in 2001, then transferred to Des Moines in 2005. He served with the Metro S.T.A.R. Team, a specialized unit within the Homeland Security Bureau, and worked at both Roosevelt and East as a school resource officer. A year before his death, he was promoted to sergeant. His busy schedule didn’t always allow him to go watch Cameron wrestle in Belmond.
“He had to work often, and I can respect that,” Cameron Beminio says. “But it was nice when he was there. I’d always feel like I had to wrestle a little harder because I wanted to impress him.”
The last time Beminio saw his dad was the night of Sept. 30, 2016. Anthony drove the 93 miles north to watch his son play football against MFL-Mar-Mac. Beminio had a good game defensively, and Belmond-Klemme won, 34-14.
The Broncos won their next two games, but went 4-5 overall and failed to make the playoffs. Not long after, Beminio skipped a planned weekend with his dad to go watch a friend play football. At the time, there wasn’t a second thought.
Now, he says that’s rough to think about.
“That was supposed to be his weekend,” Cameron says, “and it was like a week or two later that he passed away.”
About 20 minutes later and just two miles away, Greene then ambushed Anthony Beminio’s car at the intersection of Merle Hay Road and Sheridan Avenue. Greene immediately fled the scene and surrendered to Dallas County law enforcement officers at about 9:30 a.m. Greene is serving two consecutive life sentences after pleading guilty to two first-degree murder charges.
Cameron Beminio remembers waking up in a panic that day. His mom, Kiley, barreled into his room in tears. He thought someone had broken into the house and was trying to hurt his family. The reality turned out to be much worse.
The next few days were slow, Beminio says. He and his family spent a lot of time in Des Moines. They went to the crime scene. They watched as fellow officers carried the casket. They saw as many as 3,000 people come in support of Anthony at his funeral. He was the 23rd Des Moines officer killed in the line of duty.
“There’s nearly 500 people who work in our building, and pretty much every one of them know your every move,” Des Moines police Chief Dana Wingert told Beminio and his two siblings, Haley and Max, at the funeral. “And we were happy to share his enthusiasm for your lives.
“My heart bleeds for you.”
Wrestling season started a week after the funeral, and Beminio found solace in the practice room. He worked himself into exhaustion at times, refusing to leave to face the reality on the outside. Kiley reminded him that he never had to live up to his dad’s wrestling achievements, but Beminio always viewed them as goals.
“Once you enter, you try to keep everything else that’s happened outside the wrestling room out,” Jass says. “It’s all business, just working and training, and he pushed himself really hard. He wanted to be stronger and made himself better.”
All the while, support continues to envelop his family. In Belmond, blue ribbons remain tied around trees. Beminio says strangers still walk up to him and will shake his hand. In May 2017, he and his family flew to Washington, D.C., for National Police Week, where he snapped a selfie with President Donald Trump.
“That was pretty cool,” Beminio says. “I tried to get a picture with him, and he was like, ‘OK, just take out your phone and take a selfie.’ I mean, it’s the president. Everybody was around him, all locked in tight, and we were holding a conversation.”
Beminio has found myriad ways to honor his dad. He wore Anthony’s old letterman’s jacket from West for one of his senior pictures. On the back of his car is a sticker of the state of Iowa with a thin blue line across the middle — a nod to law enforcement and those who have died in the line of duty.
But perhaps the most-noticeable honorarium covers a large portion of his right arm.
A month after his father’s death, Beminio drove to Waterloo and got a tattoo. With Kiley and an uncle in the room, the artist drew an American flag draping downward. There is a faded blue line across one of the middle stripes. Sitting on the flag is a badge that says, “Sergeant” up top and “Des Moines Police” at the bottom.
Below that reads “EOW 11-2-16.” It is the first thing he sees every morning when he looks in the mirror, and the first thing his opponents see when they step on the mat and shake hands.