CEDAR RAPIDS | Wartburg College wrestlers Gilberto Camacho and Kenny Anderson have stepped around to the other side of the fence.
They've had a glimpse of what their lives could be like by diverting even slightly from the path of their dreams and ambitions.
After hitting roadblocks early in their respective college careers -- Camacho at Wartburg and Anderson at Iowa Central in Fort Dodge -- the duo returned to their hometowns to make some money and figure out what their next step was.
Two years ago, Camacho was back in Fresno, Calif., doing odd jobs for an old friend who owned a car lot. He did everything from running errands to picking up parts and cleaning and washing the cars. It was a little less than three years ago when Anderson was back home in Billerca, Mass., washing buses to make ends meet.
In the end, both came to the same conclusion. One, they wanted to finish their educations, and two, each wanted to win national wrestling championships.
Anderson, through his old ICCC buddy and Wartburg alum Carrington Banks, found Waverly. Camacho after nearly a year and half of running errands, decided a college education was the way to go and returned to Wartburg.
Now Camacho, a returning all-American at 125, and Anderson, already a two-time NCAA champion, are catalysts for the top-ranked Knight program that is seeking a record-setting fourth consecutive Division III NCAA title this week at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.
And both believe they still have more to accomplish.
"They've had the other perspective, saw the other side of things and knew 'I'm going to do everything in my power to get what I want because I'm never going back to it,'" notes Wartburg head coach Eric Keller. "That is a powerful thing. That perspective is a completely different drive."
Camacho's story is unique in itself. The middle child of 11, he has three sisters and seven brothers. Camacho's whole world was once about soccer.
It wasn't until he was sophomore in high school when he met Washington Union head coach Ryan Stockton that he even tried wrestling.
"A buddy of mine was on the wrestling team and they needed some guys at the lower weights, 103, and I was like I don't know ...," Camacho said. "Coach was like 'Try out for a week and if you don't like it you can go.'"
The rest is history. In California, where there are more than 750 high school wrestling programs and just a one-division state tournament, Camacho became a three-time state qualifier and a two-time state champion with just one loss in his final two seasons, all after picking up the sport as a sophomore.
"That's amazing," Keller said. "That just shows he has natural God-given ability to wrestle and figure things out and we're continuing to see that all the way through his college career because there was so much upside."
Camacho, seeded second at 125, was third a year ago. He found Wartburg after meeting Keller's dad, Rich, at the Dream Team Classic in Iowa City in 2008. He and Stockton flew to Iowa to visit in August. By the end of the visit, Stockton left and Camacho, stayed.
"True and amazing story," Keller said.
It wasn't always easy. Camacho was stuck behind Robert Struthers and Mark Kist when he arrived, and he left for a 1 1/2-year hiatus where he found himself working for his old buddy.
"The truth was I just want to finish up school," Camacho said of why he returned. "Even if I didn't wrestle, I wanted to finish school. That is what I wanted, was my goal. But I got back on the mat and felt good and now I've got another goal, a national championship."
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Both Camacho and Anderson had to sit out the first part of Wartburg's season as each had just one semester of eligibility left.
Trying to add his name to an elite group of Wartburg wrestlers who've won three NCAA titles -- Dustin Hinschberger and Byron Tate -- Anderson said his time away was tough.
"You don't feel part of the team when you're sitting out half the year," said Anderson, the tournament's 133-pound top seed. "And basically (wrestling-wise) I wasn't learning much.
"You need mat time. You need experience. When you're not getting the mat time and instruction ... no matter how many years I've wrestled I'm always going to be learning and I missed that during first semester."
Not only did Anderson and Camacho have to find their own mat time, Anderson was dealing with injuries to a knee and an ankle. While he says he's healthy, Anderson says that wouldn't have been a factor.
Nearly two dozen friends and family are traveling to Cedar Rapids this weekend from Massachusetts and Anderson doesn't plan on letting them down.
"I look at it like it's a fight every match and I'm not going to lose a fight in front of friends and family," he said. "This is personal for me. This is my title to take. I take it personally when other guys weigh in, or if I see another guy start warming up ... I'm like, 'What are you even doing?'"
Keller says that is true to Anderson's nature.
"The bigger the stage, the bigger the match, the more on the line, the more he thrives on it," Keller said. "He is a competitor in every sense of the word. He's one of the fiercest athletes we've ever had.
"It is what he has in common with those other guys (Hinschberger and Tate) is they were also fierce competitors."
Both Anderson and Camacho will graduate in May with degrees in Fitness Management. Anderson plans on joining the college coaching ranks, while Camacho has an eye at enrolling in the police academy either in Iowa or California.
First, however, the two want to help lead Wartburg to another title.
"Exactly how I plan on ending my career ... with my third title and another team title," Anderson said.
Luther College qualified a pair of wrestlers. Returning All-American Evan Obert is seeded fourth at 133, and South Winneshiek High product Jayden DeVilbiss is seeded seventh at 184.
DeVilbiss is also a returning qualifier but admits last year's trip was kind of unexpected. He was seeded seventh at the regional tournament, but scored one upset after another to win.
Two weeks ago at the Five Flags Center in Dubuque, he dominated the 184-pound class with four pins and is confident heading into the weekend.
"Last year, at regionals, I had already talked to the track coach about being at practice on Monday," DeVilbiss admitted. "This time, I didn't have to do that. I was pretty confident I was going to win regionals.
"I want to be on top of the podium (at the NCAAs). Anything less and I won't be satisfied."