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Home for graduation, Thielke eyes Olympics next

London 2012 is goal for Germantown wrestler

June 20, 2011

Germantown - Taking the surprise out of any wrestling match has been one of life's main goals for Germantown's four-time state champion and aspiring Olympian Jesse Thielke.

But it came as quite a surprise to his classmates on June 12 when he jumped off a plane at 11 a.m. at Mitchell International Airport and managed to make his 1 p.m. high school graduation held in the gym.

"It was pretty sweet," he said. "I actually got here (in Germantown) at 12:30 p.m. People were thinking that I would be there, but they couldn't remember if I was actually going to do it or not.

"It wound up being so cool to see all my friends. I showed up so late, they were certain I wasn't going to make it."

Why all this drama over one particular senior making his high school graduation?

Well, not everyone has been at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., for the last three-plus months, preparing for a slot on the American Greco-Roman wrestling squad for the 2012 London Olympics while completing his high school classes online.

Special arrangements

Thielke left for Colorado shortly after earning his fourth WIAA state championship for Germantown in late February. The trip to Colorado was done as part of a special arrangement with Germantown High School. In fact, Thielke also struck a deal with the University of Wisconsin that he could enroll a year later than normal so he could pursue his Olympic dream.

But for this week, Thielke, who brought along four training friends as houseguests to his parents' Germantown home, acted more like the recently graduated high school senior that he is.

He caught up with friends, happily slept in his own bed and ate his mom's food.

"It's just been great to see family and see that everyone is doing so well," he said. He too is doing well along his chosen path.

He has taken trips with fellow Olympic aspirants to tournaments in Austria and Bulgaria. He's also taken part in the US Open in Cleveland and the Junior Greco-Roman trials in Indiana.

He also maintained his class schedule online. He finished up his high school Advanced Placement classes in statistics and literature in May and recently finished up a series of other final exams.

Sights set on trials, worlds

After his return to Colorado at the end of last weekend, he will have the Senior Greco-Roman Trials in Oklahoma City and the Junior Worlds in Bucharest, Romania, in August.

"A lot of frequent flier miles," he laughed. "I'm really aiming for that Junior World title.

That would be a nice notch on the belt before the Olympics." The rigor of the schedule and of the competition in the practice rooms has been a challenge, something that Thielke has been looking for a long time.

He's frequently the youngest person in the room (most of the others are at least 19 or 20 years old) and he has had his share of moments where he's the one dragging his tail off the mat having absorbed a lesson - something that happened only once in his close to 200-match high school career.

"Definitely, that's happened," Thielke said. "I'm wrestling the best guys in the country and I know I have a lot to learn."

He shares living quarters with other wrestlers but has a private bedroom and the Training Center has professional chefs who can cater to the athletes' every culinary need.

A full-time life

In short, Thielke likes the life of being a full-time wrestler. He's enjoyed his trips overseas (hardly his first time doing that) and likes the attention that wrestlers get in other countries.

"You go to certain countries and it's their national sport," he said. "They take care of you when you get over there. We went to Bulgaria and people showed real respect towards the wrestlers.

"Plus, how much more fun can this be? I'm meeting different people, seeing different cultures and I'm doing the thing I love most in the world."

His legendary focus, if anything, is even more intense than it was at the height of his high school career. It has to be if he wants to attain his goal.

"This has been a great experiment (going over to Colorado Springs), it's working out well," Thielke said. "I'm getting stronger and smarter."

The Olympic Games in London begins July 27, 2012, with final American trials set for April 21 to 22 in Iowa City.

It's a far cry from the Kohl Center in Madison, site of his final and greatest high school triumph, and a world away in terms of forwarding a career that was always moving fast into the realm of warp speed.

"State feels like it was forever ago," Thielke said. "But I'm just glad I had this time to hang out with the family and friends.

"Now it's time to go back to work."

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