‘Wrestling for Jesus’: Rainier Wrestling Standout’s Faith Helps Drive Him
By Eric Rosane
For The Chronicle
There are a few things you need to know about standout Rainier athlete Brody Klein in order to understand what motivates him.
He’s a man of faith, he keeps his circle close and he’s very competitive.
Those qualities, and others, are perhaps what have helped the senior win eight consecutive wrestling tournaments this season, a first for the Rainier High School program.
“I don’t think we’ve ever been to seven tournaments (in a season),” Rainier wrestling coach Chris Holterman said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a kid win every tournament we’ve been to.”
But the Rainier senior, who captured first at subregionals Saturday, didn’t always approach wrestling this way.
“I kind of approached this year a little differently than last year. Last year was more about me and this year, I kind of just stepped back and, with Joe Gerrish, we wrestle for Jesus now,” Klein said. “That’s kind of our mantra. Win or lose, we’re going to be glorifying him. And for us, that gives us a lot more motivation than just saying ‘I want to win.’
“It’s a different way of approaching things, but it’s how I like to do it.”
Klein said this move was motivated by a drive among his peers to enjoy the sport more and come together as a team. By uniting around their own faith, Klein said, they’ve built a strong bond that’s akin to a small family.
“It means more this year,” he said.
This season, Klein is ranked No. 2 in Class 2B for the 160-pound weight class, according to Washington Wrestling Report.
His only loss this season came during a mixer last month against No. 1 Abram Foreman, a sophomore from Kalama High School.
Standing around 5-foot-10 and sporting a military cut of copper-colored hair, Klein is quick and has a long reach for a young man his stature.
“If you watch him wrestling, he’s the kid that’s always going for it on the mat,” Holterman said.
The Rainier senior has been wrestling for all of his high school career and most of his time in middle school. He began wrestling in Yelm Middle School’s Twisters program and in Rainier Middle School.
It was at the middle school level that he met Holterman. The two bonded over their faith, as Holterman was a leader at Young Life youth church in Rainier.
Holterman was also his teacher in middle school and noted that he and Klein’s relationship is a little more open and deeper than the other athletes. Over the last year, he’s seen Klein grow more confident.
“I’ve seen a lot of growth as far as maturity. Not necessarily as far as wrestling, but at life in general. There were some pretty in-your-face, heart-to-heart talks that we had that were pretty pointed. Since that time, I’ve seen just a tremendous amount of personal growth,” Holterman said. “It’s not all about the win. It’s more about the journey.”
Ever since Klein came on to the varsity team as a freshman he’s had to be a leader. Holterman said Klein is the kind of kid that leads by example.
“I wouldn’t say it’s effortless. We’ve definitely had some odd moments for the season,” Klein said.
“It looks effortless from where I’m standing,” Holterman responded. “It just seems like practices roll.”
Klein and Gerrish are the two seniors who lead their 16-man team this year. Tyler Barlass, the third senior, had to cut his season short following a skiing accident around the holiday break.
“For the guys that are on their last year, it’s definitely about going to the [Tacoma] Dome and placing. But for the younger guys, it’s more about learning and experiencing it,” Klein said.
Klein’s Christian Baptist roots were primarily instilled through his family, which was transported from Iowa to Washington because his father works at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
A 4.0 student, Klein plans on attending Central College in Pella, Iowa, after high school. He hopes to try out for the college’s football and track and field teams.
His father made a lot of sacrifices to keep his family in the area, Klein said, including a year’s deployment to South Korea.
But following his graduation, Klein said he and his family plan on moving back to Iowa. He considers himself lucky, especially since his sister, sophomore Brie Klein, won’t be able to finish out her high school basketball career in Rainier.
Klein has a few traditions he does before going out on the mat. During stretching and warming up, he’ll blast AC/DC or some country music to help psych himself up.
But there’s also another routine that’s brought the team close.
“We’ve also started to lead a group prayer at all tournaments. We’ll invite all the teams down. We’ve only done it a few times … We pray for everyone there, it’s totally optional … We pray for the safety of the day, safe travels home and all types of stuff,” Klein said.
This Saturday, Rainier will head to Raymond High School. The weekend following, they’ll travel to Kalama High School, where Klein will likely meet Foreman again for a regional match.
All in all, Klein might not have to wait until this year’s Mat Classic to get redemption.