No place like Nome for Ridgewater wrestler
When Lonnie Booshu, an Eskimo by birth, went home for the holidays, it was a 15-hour-plus trip via Alaska Airlines. He's back now, in Willmar, admittedly a little homesick already.
Booshu wrestles at 125 pounds for the Ridgewater College team. He graduated in a class of 46 from Nome Beltz Senior High School last spring. On Saturday, he went 3-1 at the Warrior Open for third place.
In Alaska, he qualified for the state tournament every year starting with his freshman season. He was the 125-pound runner-up in 2009 and 2010.
Wrestling is not a big sport in Alaska, said Booshu. Not until the state meet, did his matches get especially challenging. Now, he says, every match is like a "championship match." His lone loss on Saturday was by a pin to a Minot (N.D.) State wrestler.
The Beltz Nanooks make all their road trips by a 19-seat air charter. "There are no connecting roads to Nome," explained the Alaskan in a quiet voice.
The Booshu family lives about a mile outside the seaside city of 4,000 people on a treeless plain. Tourism and gold mining are the economic generators. The city is best remembered here as the finish line of the 1,049-mile Iditarod Sled Dog Race.
Lonnie's dad works for an apartment maintenance company and his mother at the hospital. His sister, Kalyanna, 17, wrestles for the Nanooks. "She qualified for state, but went 0-2," said Lonnie.
I asked him about his other interests. "Hunting and fishing," he answered. He's hunted walrus, seal, whale, moose, caribou and waterfowl. He brought back some moose chops last week. Here, he hunted pheasant with the coaches but was unsuccessful.
Booshu grew up on St. Lawrence Island, 200 miles west of Nome, in the ocean village of Gambell. Look on a map, and it's smack against the International Dateline. Far East Russia is 36 miles across the straight. On a clear day, you can see the mountains of the Chukchi Peninsula.
The Booshu's lived in Gambell until Lonny was nine. The nearly 700 people are 95 percent Native American. "I'm three-quarters Siberian Yupik and one-quarter white," Boonshu said.
Booshu found his way to west central Minnesota via the Internet. He posted his profile on Tackle.com, a sort of Facebook for athletes. He was contacted by Warriors' coach Tom Beyer, who had a wrestler on the roster from the 49th state last season. Boonshu is in the Ridgewater carpentry program.
Lonnie was acquainted with Minnesota. He spent 20 days in 2009 at current Gophers coach J Robinson's Wrestling Camp. And the Minnesota and Alaska winters are similar, though there is more daylight here.
Just last week he got a lift when scenes of both Nome and Gambell were featured on the new Discovery Channel reality show "Alaskan State Trooper."
"That was fun to see," he smiled.
Four Willmar Cardinal athletes were recently honored by the Central Lakes Conference as Performers of the Week:
Senior forward Shantel Kelly in girls basketball (offense) for scoring 26 points with four assists in two wins.
Senior forward Carrie Boike in girls basketball (defense) for collecting 14 rebounds and four steals in two wins.
Senior Nathaniel Erickson led the Cardinal boys Nordic ski team with his 15th-place finish (21:36) in a 5k skate at Willmar Invite.
Senior Aileen Clarke led the Cardinal girls Nordic team with a 15th place (25:02) at the Willmar Invite.
The Great Storm
Think this winter is harsh? This week, 36 years ago on Jan. 12, 1975, a Friday, a blizzard lashed the state. While a few sporting events have had to be postponed this winter due to blowing and drifting snow, high school sports shut down 36 years ago until the following Tuesday.
About the only sporting event of interest to Minnesotans were the Vikings playing in the Super Bowl down in New Orleans, a joyless 16-6 loss to Pittsburgh.
The "Storm of the Century" dumped up to 18 inches of snow in Southwest Minnesota with winds over 50 mph.
The West Central Tribune failed to publish on Saturday, Jan. 13, the first miss in its history due to weather.
On Monday, an eight-column headline blared: "Area Paralyzed by Worst Storm in History."