Leaving a legend
By: Zac Hoffner
What began as a kid needing a way to expend his surplus of energy turned into a remarkable wrestling career.
At just 4 years old, Blake Bosch took the mat for the first time, and success was soon to follow. Bosch didn’t lose a match until third grade. It was at that time he realized he hated losing more than he loved winning.
As just an eighth grader, Bosch started to make his mark on North Dakota high school wrestling by winning his first state championship. As satisfying as that may have been, the next two years were a humbling experience for him. He finished runner-up in ninth and 10th grade, losing both championships to the same wrestler.
Growing up in the small town of Wishek, North Dakota (population 987), the opportunity to get better was sometimes difficult. After dropping his second state championship, Blake would make the 1-hour-and-45-minute drive to Bismarck, a place that is synonymous with wrestling.
“When I lost as a freshman is when I really started to take it seriously; that’s when I wanted to get better every time I was in the room, rather than just competing. That’s when I wanted to be the best wrestler I could be,” Bosch said. “Losing those two really drove me wild. After that, I started wrestling outside of season every day. I’d spend weeks at a time wrestling in Bismarck staying with the Blees and wrestling with (Bismarck High coach) Jeff Schumacher and (four-time state champion) Joe Schumacher. That’s when I really noticed my career turning.”
The improvement wasn’t only noticed by him; college coaches started to pay attention as well. After going undefeated his junior and senior season (93-0), his high school career ended. A three-time state champ and two-time runner-up with a career record of 240-26, he has the most wins in North Dakota high school wrestling history. He was getting offers from Division I and Division II schools all around the country; however, he ended up deciding to become a Dragon.
Bosch found some success as a true freshman, but not right away, according to coach Kris Nelson.
“He was a very talented wrestler, but any time you make the jump from high school to college, it’s a whole nother level,” Nelson said.
The transition of styles from high school to college wasn’t the most difficult thing Bosch had to endure that season. As any wrestler or wrestling junkie would say, the most difficult thing is cutting weight. And Bosch would have to drop from a lean 140 pounds to 125.
“He sucked it up for the team and got down to 125. He really had some ups and downs that year, but as the year went on he really started to adjust to the college style,” Nelson said. “He ended up being a national qualifier as a true freshman.”
It was the start Nelson thinks paved the way for the rest of his career as a Dragon.
“I think that gave him a lot of confidence in himself that he can really compete at this level, and with that confidence he just kept working hard and getting better every year,” Nelson said.
From then on, Bosch knew what it would take to reach the pinnacle of Division II wrestling. His sole focus was to become a national champion and hoist the trophy at the top of the podium.
His sophomore season in college was a year of firsts for Bosch. Placing third in the Super Regional 3 tournament, Blake earned All-NSIC first team honors and moved onto the national tournament, where he placed eighth and received his first All-American honors as well.
Just like in high school, this was the season when Bosch really started to improve.
“My junior year, Steven Monk (All-American from NDSU) came and really helped me develop the mental side of things. It turned my focus to winning in every position, because that’s really what wrestling is all about,” Bosch said. “I really went into every match expecting to win, and that’s kind of the attitude I’ve always had.”
It was around this time that Bosch learned how to properly cut weight and fuel himself with the right nutrients to take that next step.
“I really started to cook for myself, eating a lot of chicken breasts and rice and pasta on the right days,” Bosch said. “You feel a lot more confident in yourself and your training rather than getting through the first period running on fumes, and having your legs and body tighten up from the lack of food and nutrients you have in your body.”
Bosch gained national attention in his junior year. He placed first in the regional tournament, winning the championship by pin, advancing him to his third consecutive national tournament. Bosch reached All-American status for the second year in a row but fell short of his ultimate goal: winning a championship.
This left Bosch with one last chance to hoist a national championship trophy. His confidence and focus were at an all-time high.
Bosch woke up every day at 6 a.m. to get in a workout. He would go home, take a nap, go to class, and then go practice. After that he would go home, eat, and then go back again that night to get weighed and work out once more before bed.
Bosch’s senior season was going as well as possible. He once again won the regional tournament in grand fashion, this time in his home gym in front of his home fans at Nemzek Fieldhouse. He pinned his opponent in the first period in front of a roaring crowd. Heading into the national tournament, Bosch had only one loss to a Division I athlete from the University of Nebraska.
The feeling was different heading into this tournament, Bosch said.
“My freshman year heading into nationals, I was a little starstruck seeing all the names that I’d heard and seen at the top of tournaments, and now I was actually competing with them,” Bosch said. “It was eye-opening. And then my senior year, I was one of those guys people talked about. It was really full circle, and I had my mind on that championship.”
Bosch headed to Birmingham, Alabama, for his last shot at the national championship. He went on to win his first three matches of the tournament, solidifying his spot in the national championship. But that match would not go as planned for him or Nelson, as he would lose a tough match 7-5.
“Blake never really got in on his legs. It wasn’t that he didn’t put forth the effort or wrestle aggressive, he just got taken down early and Blake was always just trying to battle back,” Nelson said. “But Blake gave it his all, fell a little short of his goal, but I tell you what, one of the hardest workers and best kids that I’ve ever coached or been around. He did all the right things on and off the mat.”
It wasn’t just the talent and work ethic that made Bosch such a positive athlete to have at MSUM. His positive attitude, leadership, and charisma are lessons anyone can take from his story.
Bosch graduates this spring with a major in business, but he said with everything that wrestling has given him, he would love to stick around the sport and give back through coaching.
Although he fell just short of his goal of becoming a national champion, the kid with too much energy and a graduating class of thirteen will go down as one of the greatest wrestlers in the history of MSUM.