There are many reasons why former Germantown four-time WIAA state wrestling champ Jesse Thielke will be participating in the 2016 Rio Olympics as Team USA's representative in the Greco-Roman 130-pound class.
Former Germantown, Whitefish Bay and Homestead wrestling coach Barry Bernstein has a solid lead on one of the major drivers to the 23-year old Thielke's success.
'I don't know where I got this quote but I use it a lot with my CSU (Colorado State University club) wrestlers,' he said by e-mail. 'I do believe it applies to Jesse in a very positive sense. 'The only thing standing between you and your goal is the BS story you keep telling yourself as to why you can't achieve it.'
'Jesse is one of the few people who actually never gave himself a reason why he couldn't achieve this, by always keeping his goal in sight and eliminating the BS of those around (him) who said he could not achieve his goal.'
The absolute joy and exhilaration on Thielke's face in the photo that accompanied his qualification story on 'The Open Mat' website was the ultimate payoff for the nearly two decades of work and dedication he has put into wrestling. It seemed to say yes, he successfully put all the BS behind him.
The decisive moment came May 6 on the last of his four wins, a 17-8 technical fall over a Moldovan competitor, at the Last Chance Olympic Qualifier in Istanbul, Turkey. The victory secured a top two spot in his class and a spot in the Olympics.
The tournament in Turkey capped a wild ride for Thielke, who last month had won the U.S. Olympic Trials at his weight class. But because the U.S. team had not met certain qualifying standards for the Olympic Games at Thielke's weight class, he had to secure his berth in one of two Last Chance events.
He came up short, losing a first round match in the tournament in Mongolia, so needed to finish among the top two at this final meet in Turkey.
Thielke did just that by defeating opponents from Hungary (8-0), Georgia (13-6) and Sweden (pin) before the decisive semifinal victory over Moldova. He did eventually lose in the final to Iranian six-time World Champion and reigning Olympic champion Hamid Mohammad Soryan by an 8-0 count, but his place in history and in the Olympics was secure.
After the match in an interview with Takedown Wrestling, Thielke was only a little more subdued about his achievement.
'It was an extra journey, an extra little bit to qualify the weight, but I proved to myself and everyone else that I'm a world competitor,' he said.
Coaches whose wrestlers had the misfortune of facing Thielke in high school have never had a doubt about that assertion.
'I said it before the U.S. trials, Thielke is just too dynamic for most guys in Greco,' said Whitefish Bay coach Dale Loebel. 'He's scoring from duck under and low level attacks. You just don't see that very often in Greco. In the semis, he was down early, but came back and steamrolled the guy from Moldova.
'I'm excited for him. It's tough to win the Trials and then have to come back and qualify the weight. Keeping his body healthy and maintaining weight for this long makes his accomplishment even more amazing.'
'Jesse had a goal and dedicated himself to that achieve that goal,' said Menomonee Falls coach Jim McMahon. 'He was such a pleasure to watch in high school with his four state championships. I also witnessed his only high-school loss to Jake Sueflohn (of Arrowhead in a WIAA sectional final), and it was a true testament to his character how he handled defeat and was able to avenge his loss the next weekend (in the state final).
'The kid was incredibly smooth with his technique and so much fun to watch in high school. He gives back to the local kids through Ringers wrestling club by doing camps. The kids love him and he is a great teacher and ambassador to the sport of wrestling.'
'Jesse was one of the most dominant athletes I have ever seen, in any sport,' added Homestead coach Ernie Millard. 'Some of the things I saw him do on the wrestling mat were almost beyond imagination. His passion for the most difficult of sports has paid off in the largest way possible and I could not be happier for he and his family.'
His goals remain the same as always, to win the gold medal, and he added that the biggest obstacle in the way of that will likely be Soryan. He said he's looking forward to 'making a lot of improvements between now and Rio.'
Loebel said if Thielke needs help fundraising to 'tell him I'm in for a bunch of T-shirts.'
Thielke will get to that eventually.
In all his world-traveling lately, Thielke admitted that time has been a blur. The only other thing he said he could remember outside of wrestling was giving his Mom a call on Mother's Day, shortly after qualifying for the Games.
Then as Bernstein and others have observed, it was back to work for Thielke, as he kept his eye on the prize, shuttling all the BS out of sight, well out of range of his rear-view mirror.
Because what's ahead is all that matters.