Finalist Heskett Wants Top Prize
Joe Heskett is tired of second place.
In college, he lost in the NCAA finals his sophomore and junior years, before capturing a national title in his senior campaign. In 2004, Heskett finished second in both the U.S. Nationals and U.S. Olympic Team Trials to Joe Williams.
Heskett, who competes for the Iowa Stalkers, has now reached the Real Pro Wrestling finals at 163 pounds, where he will once again square off against Williams, who competes for the Chicago Groove. The match will air in episode eight.
In the quarterfinals, Heskett dominated seventh-seeded Sean Harrington of the Texas Shooters, earning a 16-0 technical fall. But in the semifinals, he had to battle back from a 5-0 deficit to defeat third-seeded Ramico Blackmon of the New York Outrage. With less than 30 second left in the match, Heskett tied the score with a takedown, and then immediately secured a trapped arm gut wrench for the winning points.
“It’s not easy to come back from behind on a guy like Ramico,” Heskett said. “I didn’t want to get down 5-0, but that’s just how the sport rolls and thankfully I was able to stay composed.”
Heskett will now face Williams in the finals, an opponent who he has a great deal of respect for.
“His experience and ability to score with such power make him very dangerous,” said Heskett of Williams. “Of all the people I have wrestled in the world, Joe has the most power of anyone.”
Heskett was a four-time NCAA All-American and a national champion for Iowa State. He has steadily climbed the freestyle ladder and is now ranked second in the U.S. at 163 pounds (74 kg). He continues to improve in all facets of his wrestling.
“I’m getting a lot better in the par terre position,” said Heskett. “I have been focusing a lot on that lately. If I can build a lot of confidence in par terre, I think that balance, on my feet and in par terre, can take me to that level where I want to be — the best in the world.”
After graduating from Iowa State in 2002, Heskett left Ames for California, where he took an assistant coaching position at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly).
“Sometimes you have to make the decisions that are going to be best for you,” said Heskett of the decision. “For me at that point in time, as much as I love Iowa State, the fans, and the guys on the team, Cal Poly presented an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up. It was definitely the right decision for me, as well as for my family.”
For Heskett, life couldn’t be better in California. He jokingly says that learning to surf was the hardest transition he had to make.
“It has been like a life-long vacation so far,” said Heskett. “I live a mile from the beach and it is beautiful here all year round.”
Heskett’s face, though, lights up when the topic turns to family.
He was raised by his grandmother, Evelyn Nye, in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. She drove him an hour and a half to wrestling practice ever day, where he wrestled for national power Walsh Jesuit and became a three-time state Ohio state champion with a career record of 150-11. His grandmother remains his inspiration.
“Only certain people can identify with how special someone is to you,” said Heskett. “But hopefully everyone can identify to a certain extent. That’s how special my grandmother is to me. She did absolutely everything she could to put me in a situation where I could succeed, all the sacrifice in the world.”
In 2002, Heskett married his high school sweetheart, Tara, who he now shares a home with in Arroyo Grande.
“My wife is absolutely pivotal to my success,” said Heskett. “She has been that way from the day I met her. She knows the sacrifices of wrestling and what it takes for me to be the best. She has always been there and has never complained in the eight years we have known each other. It’s a tribute. I couldn’t be more blessed to have her in my life.”
In February, Heskett also became a proud father to a baby girl named Olivia.
“From the standpoint of being a father, it’s an amazingly beautiful thing,” said Heskett. “Starting a family has been one of my life goals. Family to me has always been the most important thing in my life. So now I get to start me own, and it has been an unbelievable blessing.”
Heskett is finishing up his masters degree program in educational leadership with an emphasis in athletic administration. He expects to graduate next winter.
But for now his focus is on wrestling. He will compete in the U.S. Nationals next week in Las Vegas. His short term goal is to make U.S. World Team, but long term, he has Olympic aspirations.
“I see myself wrestling until 2008,” said Heskett. “I want to go for that 2008 Olympic team. I have the support. I couldn’t do this without my family, sponsors, and friends. I thank the Lord every day for their kindness and support.”
He is also excited about the impact RPW could have on wrestling.
“The sport of wrestling could revolutionize because of what Real Pro Wrestling has done,” said Heskett. “It could open more eyes to the general public and give people a better understanding of our sport, a better appreciation. Our sport deserves to be recognized. It’s a pure sport. People do it for the love of the sport. That’s not a cliché, it’s the truth. There is no other reason to do it. You don’t do it for the money. You do it because you love it.”