A whirlwind senior year

  • Article by: BRIAN STENSAAS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 2, 2012 - 1:18 AM

A tornado last May disrupted Eric Shaw's life. Never one to quit, he's wrestling at Henry for the first time. Now he's in the state meet.

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Eric Shaw is wrestling for Minneapolis Henry, but he’s living in Roseville after his north Minneapolis home was destroyed in a tornado last May. He gets up at 5 a.m. each school day and does homework during a two-transfer bus ride.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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When Eric Shaw steps onto the wrestling mat for his Class 1A opening-round match midday Friday at Xcel Energy Center, the senior heavyweight from Minneapolis Henry faces some long odds.

But Shaw laughs at adversity, much like some might snicker about his nonchalant attitude toward the biggest stage of a high school wrestler's career.

"Who knows? There might be a big upset," he said with a wide smile.

Added his father, also named Eric: "His determination is outstanding."

The younger Shaw is Henry's first state tournament entrant since 2008. The road he took to get there went through a tornado.

Shaw was hanging out with friends near 26th and Girard Avenue North in Minneapolis last May 22 when the group heard weather warning sirens.

"I was like, 'It's not the first Wednesday of the month, what's going on here?'" he said. "And then we saw it. We literally saw the tornado drop out of the sky."

Huddled in his friend's basement, Shaw felt walls blow out and heard window glass shatter on the floor above him.

"Terrifyingly crazy," he said.

When the storm passed, Shaw pulled on his jacket and ran to his home several blocks away. The big-but-athletic Shaw hurdled trees and power lines on the way.

"It was like a video game," he said. "My shoes were destroyed."

The home was not a total loss, but Shaw, his father and siblings moved to live with relatives on St. Paul's East Side. Two more relocations followed, but Shaw wasn't about to give up his senior year at Henry.

"My dad has raised me to never quit," he said. "And I have a girlfriend there."

Starting with summer two-a-day football practices, Shaw began taking a two-transfer bus route to and from Henry. Every school day since, it's been the same.

Up at 5 a.m., homework on the bus, class, practice, home.

"Haven't missed a day of school," Shaw said proudly. "Except for when I had to go to the doctor for a concussion. But that was a medical excuse."

Though he was captain of the Patriots football team this fall and has lettered in baseball as a third baseman, the 6-foot, 240-pounder never wrestled until this season. One week after official practices began, to be exact.

"Very raw," Henry coach Scott Ramsdell said. "Like, never-wore-a-pair-of-wrestling-shoes raw. But when you have an athletic big man, he doesn't need to know 50 moves. He needs to know 10 moves really, really well. And he fit in."

Shaw lost to Aitkin's Cooper Blau in the Section 7 individual championship match but earned his spot at state with a victory in the true-second bout. He carries a 22-12 record into his half of the Class 1A heavyweight bracket that includes top-ranked Alex Yeager of Badger/Greenbush-Middle River. Up first Friday is No. 2 Colin Turchin of Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale.

"I don't know if we could have gotten a worse draw," Ramsdell said. "But he doesn't care. He'll go out there and good things will happen, just like they have all year."

Regardless, Shaw's attention will soon focus back on football. Coaches at Ridgewater College in Willmar are ready for the all-Minneapolis City Conference lineman's arrival.

And from there?

"I'm still doing this to just stay in shape," Shaw said. "But maybe I'll wrestle in college as well."

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