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Family affair: Bowling men become rare three-generation age-group All-Americans

by Adam Engel, USA Wrestling

From left to right, Leister Bowling III, Leister Bowling IV and Leister Bowling Jr. Photo courtesy of Chris Brown.

Leister Bowling IV tossed his opponent and returned to the circle with a stoic look.

A quick technical fall resulted in All-American status at the 2022 USMC 16U Greco Roman Nationals in Fargo, N.D.
He jogged toward his father and later hugged his grandfather without knowing the historical significance of his achievement.
Bowling IV, a 152-pounder from Colorado, placed eighth at the USMC 16U Greco Roman Nationals. Decades before, his father, Leister Bowling III and his grandfather, Leister Bowling Jr. also placed in USA Wrestling’s major age-group national events.
Bowling III finished seventh at 132 in 1998 in 16U Greco-Roman in Fargo. In 1978, Bowling Jr. placed sixth at 154 in Junior Greco-Roman in Iowa City, Iowa. Nate Carr of Ohio, years before his Olympic bronze medal and NCAA titles, defeated Bowling Jr. in that fifth-place match.
The Bowling family is one of the first three-generation USA Wrestling age-group All-American families.
To get there, Bowling IV battled through the consolation bracket and met a familiar opponent. In June, Maximus Norman of Tennessee beat Bowling IV twice at the 16U National Duals. Now, Bowling IV needed to reverse the past to become an All-American.
“He definitely thought he was gonna go in there and beat me,” Bowling IV said.
From the whistle, Bowling IV took the attack to Norman and recorded a 9-0 tech fall in 88 seconds.
In Team Colorado’s corner, Bowling III, who coaches Bowling IV, clapped and hugged his son.
He knew the significance of the win. Bowling IV didn’t.
“I thought it was pretty cool because I don’t think that’s happened to any other family,” he said. “I was excited to dominate the match and show that my last performance wasn’t really me.”
Bowling IV lost his next two matches for his eighth-place finish. He earned All-American status at Earth’s largest wrestling tournament.
Growing up in a wrestling family in Colorado, Bowling IV heard everything about his relatives' wrestling accomplishments. Friends and others in the local wrestling community compared him to his elders.
From the side, Bowling III understands the pressure that might bring to his son. He didn’t tell his son about the family’s USA Wrestling age-group history. He wants Bowling IV to create his own path and career.
In Fargo, that individualistic mindset became key.
“It was hot there,” Bowling IV said. “It was just kinda miserable. I think it was eight days of just wrestling and practice. I knew it was going to be a battle to keep a good mindset and just stay ready to wrestle.”
The mentality helped him place in his first Fargo tournament. He qualified a year ago, but a broken right arm a week before Fargo foiled those plans.
“He threw a guy in Greco and the guy tried to bridge through, he posted his arm and the guy kinda pulled on it and collapsed it,” Bowling III said.
Bowling IV needed surgery along with a pin and two screws placed in his arm. In a week, he will finally get the screws removed.
To a guy who grew up around the mat, a four-to-six-month layoff from the surgery challenged his mindset.
Even with several mats 30 to 40 steps from his bedroom, nothing could be done. No drilling. Just watching.
Years ago, Bowling III built a wrestling facility on property next to their house. The center houses Colorado Top Team, a club with over 100 wrestlers that train multiple times a week.
“It’s a 6,600 square foot building that’s got locker rooms, showers and weights,” he said. “I don’t know how many square feet of mat it is. Probably close to 3,000 square feet of wrestling mats.”
Bowling III runs the club along with Joe Warren, a 2006 Greco-Roman World champion and Quinten Fuentes, a former Oklahoma State University wrestler. He is also a personal coach for MMA fighters.
Bowling III grew up under the influence of Bowling Jr., a former high school coach. He always wanted to give back to his son and others.
“I’ve been on a mat since I was 5 and I don’t think there’s ever been more than maybe a month period where I haven’t been in a wrestling room in some capacity,” he said.
Bowling III wrestled collegiately at University of Southern Colorado (Now CSU-Pueblo) and Dana College in Nebraska.
After college, he had one MMA fight before his wife became pregnant with Bowling IV. At that point, he shifted to coaching. He started Elevation Fight Team and appeared in season 16 of “The Ultimate Fighter” as an assistant coach.
His work exposed Bowling IV to fighting and that influences his goals. Bowling IV will be a sophomore at Mead High School in Colorado. After high school, he wants to wrestle at the NCAA Division I level and transition into MMA.

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