CHEYENNE – Even when he was playing major college football, Tevis Bartlett was never far away from wrestling.
University of Washington practices and meetings were in the morning, which allowed the former Cheyenne East standout to spend his afternoons as an assistant wrestling coach at a Seattle-area junior high school.
Bartlett also was a fixture at the Wyoming and Washington state wrestling tournaments.
He went undrafted this April, but was invited to rookie camps for the New York Giants and Tennessee Titans. He had all but shut the door on the wrestling chapter of his life.
Then he ran into University of Wyoming wrestling coach Mark Branch at an American Legion Baseball state tournament. Branch had recruited Bartlett while he was winning four state championships and earning multiple All-American honors for East. He kept tabs on Bartlett’s career at Washington.
“He told me he was living in Cheyenne working out, trying to stay in shape and waiting for an NFL tryout,” Branch said. “I left it at that. But when I got home, I texted him our summer workout schedule and told him he had a place on the mat any time he wanted it.”
Branch had forgotten about his offer to Bartlett until UW was about to start classes. He reached out to Bartlett again.
“I told him I was interested in wrestling, but that I was having trouble getting into school,” Bartlett said. “He put me in touch with the right people, and it was a whirlwind admissions process.”
Bartlett was admitted to UW, and is going through preseason workouts with the Cowboys wrestling team. There has been some rust.
“You don’t do something for 14 years, take a four-year break and have everything go away completely,” said Bartlett, who is listed as a heavyweight on the UW roster. “Some of my shots flow and it’s like, ‘Did you really take four years off?’ Then there are some things where it’s like, ‘Have you ever wrestled before?’”
Bartlett knows it’s going to take time for him to knock off the rust and get back into wrestling shape. Branch isn’t worried about his newest recruit.
“He has picked some things up exceptionally quick,” Branch said. “We have been on the mat three times since he joined us, and he has been impressive with his muscle memory, body positions, hand movement and foot movement.
“He is either a quick learner, or not as rusty as I thought he’d be. Not being in wrestling shape is the only thing hindering him right now. It won’t be long before he is on pace with everyone else.”
Bartlett did his best to maintain a level of conditioning that would allow him to showcase himself if the NFL comes calling again. He knows wrestling will help with that. Branch isn’t asking him to drop any of his football weight, either.
Bartlett has been doing the same strength training he did at Washington, and he did football workouts with the East football team all spring and summer. He was an assistant with the Thunderbirds until wrestling training started.
“It’s kind of tricky, but there’s still hope,” Bartlett said of the NFL. “There are guys getting hurt left and right. My agents are adamant that I stay in shape and stay ready.
“If something comes along, it would be an awesome opportunity that I’ll try to take full advantage of. In the meantime, I’m focused on wrestling.”