Manistee’s Jensen to wrestle for Midland University

Manistee’s Bryson Jensen (above) has committed to wrestle for Midland University of Nebraska. Jensen (below) signs his letter of intent at a recent ceremony alongside Manistee wrestling coach Darrell Burchfield and mother Berdelia Vasquez. (News Advocate file photos)

Over the years and across several sports, Bryson Jensen has built a mountain of memories through his athletic career with the Chippewas. And it’s safe to say the Manistee senior reached his summit at the Division 3 state wrestling finals in March.

“Being on a football team that was 9-0, and having our first playoff game at home was pretty special,” he said, “but I can’t compare it to the feeling I had when I got my 150th (varsity career) win on the mat. That was just far greater than anything I’ve ever felt.”

Jensen met the milestone mark in the same match that qualified him for an All-State finish at the individual finals, a feat only one other Chippewa has accomplished before him. Jensen grappled his way to fifth place in the 160-pound weight class and finished his prep career with 152 victories.

And while that type of success surely takes hard work and natural athletic ability, for Jensen it’s also been a learning process. He’s truly a student of the sport.

“Nothing challenges me as much as wrestling does,” he said. “And it’s not getting my hand raised that makes me love it; it’s the blood, sweat and tears that you put into the practice room, day in and day out.”

With admittedly even more room to improve, Jensen has more time to do so now too. The senior recently signed a letter of intent to continue his wrestling career at Midland University of Fremont, Nebraska.

“It’s pretty awesome,” he said during a recent signing ceremony at his school, in front of friends, family and coaches. “I’ve always seen other kids (sign to play collegiate athletics), so now it’s a really cool feeling to be the one doing it.”

Midland is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) as well as the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC). Jensen was drawn to the Warriors’ wrestling program through his friend and former Chippewa wrestler Adam Ball, a 2014 Manistee graduate.

“(He) went there and really liked it, so I looked into it,” Jensen said. “I met one of the coaches at a tournament last summer, and (Midland) kept coming up as one of my better options. I know it’s where I’m going to get my best opportunities, academically and athletically.”

Jensen, who plans to pursue a career in nursing, will be joining a strong program that has produced numerous national champions.

“They’ve got tough middleweights, right where I’m going to be,” Jensen said. “So, even if I don’t start the first year or two, it’s OK. I’m going to have good competition in the practice room. And that’s where iron sharpens iron; that’s where I’m going to get better.

“It wouldn’t be any fun if I was the best in the room and didn’t get my butt kicked once in a while.”

And that attitude has allowed Jensen to continually improve by leaps and bounds since he first hit the mat in seventh grade.

“It’s all about the challenge,” he said. “I’ve learned that’s nothing’s given. You can go out thinking you’ll win, but someone could always beat you. And you can always go out and beat someone else. That’s something I’ve really taken away (from wrestling in high school): no matter what you think of yourself or someone else, anything could happen.”

Jensen said Manistee wrestling coach Darrell Burchfield has been crucial to his development.

“These last two years, when Coach Burchfield came along, I had so many flaws,” he explained. “He really fixed things up and I improved all around. I’m still not perfect at what I do, but it’s fine with me. More room to improve, that’s for the best.”

Burchfield said Jensen has what it takes to improve and excel at the next level.

“I’ve had a lot of good wrestlers that I’ve coached, but Bryson is special because of the work he’s willing to put into it,” he said. “Not just during a practice session, but before and after. He’s there early, he stays late, always working to improve: that’s what’s gotten him to where he is.

“When I first met him, he was a good, solid, strong athletic kid, but he had a lot to learn on the mat,” he added. “His extra effort allowed us to help him make those small incremental changes that make a huge difference. And he worked on those things relentlessly. He’s come a long way.

“He’s still got a long range of growth and experience to have, but he’s a good student on the mat. And that’s going to launch him at the NAIA level.”

Burchfield also hopes Jensen’s transition to the next level helps pave the way for up-and-coming Chippewas.

“This is something you love to see,” he said. “Moving on to the next level doesn’t happen all the time, even with good athletes on a good team. So to see Bryson move on, kids can look up to that and tell themselves they can do it too.”

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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