Alburnett’s Tyler Shulista has always had someone special by his side and in his corner during his wrestling career.
That same person has sacrificed as much and has shown as much dedicated to Shulista’s quest to be champion. The Pirates senior is grateful his dad, Brett Shulista, has accompanied him every step of the way to two state championships, including traveling miles for tournaments, renovating the family’s Morton building into a workout facility and helping coach.
“It’s almost like we’re sharing it,” Tyler Shulista said. “He’s definitely put more into it than I ever thought anybody would ever put into it.
“I’m lucky and fortunate to have him do all this for me.”
If he can cap his prep career with a third state title, expect Tyler Shulista to take his first running leap into the arms of his dad following the finals of the Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 1A state tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. The individual tournament starts Thursday at 9 a.m. with 3A competition with 1A starting at 7 p.m.
Having his dad in his corner added to the moments when he won the 112-pound title as a sophomore and the 119-pound crown last year.
“It means a lot because he’s put a lot more work into the sport than I have if you think about it, taking me to tournaments, spending all the dollars and basically helping me get on top of the awards stand every year,” Tyler Shulista said. “He almost deserves it more for what he’s done … not only for me but all the other kids in town.”
Alburnett Coach Kane Thompson has been on the receiving of that traditional celebratory leap by a champion, suffering a swollen lip and a chipped tooth from the impacts delivered by the emotionally charged wrestler. Not this year, even if Brett Shulista prefers to stay out of the spotlight.
“Definitely to my dad, especially for all he’s done,” the top-ranked 126-pounder said. “He’s one of those guys who doesn’t ask for a whole lot and never complains about anything. He’s going to tell me to jump in Kane’s arms , but he’ll be surprised when I come to him first.”
It was Brett Shulista who his son went to first in Kindergarten when he received a handout at school about participating in wrestling. The very next day they attended a practice and a few days later Tyler Shulista started one of the most storied wrestling career’s in Alburnett history.
When work on the family’s hog operation allowed, the two would pile into a car and head to tournaments on the weekend for about five months that first year. Coincidentally it was a state tournament for Pee Wee wrestlers at Wartburg College in Waverly that hooked the younger Shulista for good.
“It was pretty exciting for me,” Tyler Shulista said. “I loved it ever since then.”
More than the results, Brett Shulista recalled the friendships that he witnessed his son make along the way. He became fans of the youths wrestling with and even against Tyler, as they went to area tournaments through middle school and expanding to more national tournaments in junior high. As he has had a front row seat for his son’s achievements, he has recognized the accomplishments of Tyler’s friends through the sport.
“It always made it fun,” Brett Shulista said. “You got to see them accomplish things right along with what you’ve been working for. It makes it pretty neat.”
Wrestling is their favorite sport and the Shulistas share a stronger relationship because of it.
“It’s definitely a lot of time spent together,” Brett Shulista said. “It’s a special bond in itself.”
The devotion Brett Shulista, a former Alburnett wrestler as well, has shown to his son is matched by Tyler’s dedication to the sport. The elder Shulista turned the large shed structure, that housed his dad’s tractors and farm machinery. Brett figured he could get older mats and recondition them so the area kids had a place to work out.
Now it rivals the facilities of many small schools. The 56-by-75-foot building includes a full-size mat, another third and some smaller mats. Tyler Shulista said there is a shower, office, treadmills and even a couple weight benches. Tyler said his dad used to practice on an Alburnett stage used for school’s plays and musicals to this day, and wanted to give others a better opportunity.
“It’s more than I’d ever ask for,” said Tyler Shulista, who was training at 6:15 p.m. Sunday. “I can’t complain one bit about it.”
The resources are one thing, but the willingness to take advantage of them is another. Tyler Shulista puts in the time and it has paid dividends with about 180 career wins.
“The big thing is he takes time to do extra things beside your high school practices,” said Brett Shulista, who credited former Cedar Rapids Jefferson state champion Matt Ironside for the work he has done with Tyler. “He works throughout the summer. When he gets into season, he’s always doing extra things in the morning. He probably puts in four hours a day toward wrestling.”
Do those workouts include rolling around with dad in their facility or at practice?
“That happens now and then,” Brett Shulista said with a laugh. “I don’t quite have enough shape anymore. It works for awhile, but then not so well.”
Tyler Shulista was motivated when he attended the 2005 state tournament and watched the likes of Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Joey Slaton, Linn-Mar’s Jay Borschel and North Linn’s Dan LeClere win state championships at “The Barn.”
“It gave me that spark that I want to be on top (of the podium) just like they were,” Tyler Shulista said. “They gave me inspiration.”
As a freshman he placed third at 103 pounds. Shulista has dominated his last two state brackets, pinning his way to the finals where he won by major decision as a sophomore and then pinning his way through the 2011 field. He continued that dominance this season, going 42-1 with 42 pins.
“He was a lot more focused and it showed,” Brett Shulista said about his son’s performance last year. “I think he wants to try to do the same things this year.
“When tournament times comes around, he escalates to the next level.”
Shulista said that last year’s championship was a little sweeter than the first. Neither would compare to securing No. 3 on Saturday night.
“It would mean quite a bit to me,” said Tyler Shulista, who will make a college choice following visits scheduled for after the state meet. “I’m excited and looking forward to it. Right now, I’m feeling the best I’ve felt, which is good.”
It would mean a lot to someone in his corner as well.