GRAND JUNCTION — It was only natural that Josiah Rider would follow up in the family business.
For the Rider family, that business is wrestling.
But Josiah has taken that business to a new level — and wants to take it even further.
The Grand Junction junior pulled off a rare feat on Saturday, becoming one of the few wrestlers to become a three-time champion at the 41st annual Warrior Classic. The annual pre-holiday tournament at Grand Junction’s Central High School traditionally draws the state’s best wrestlers and teams regardless of classification.
Rider won in convincing fashion, pinning a familiar foe, Fruita Monument’s Daniel Van Hoose, in the 145-pound title match.
But everything he does at the high school level is all a prelude for him. Yes, he’s the defending Class 5A 152-pound state champ, and while February’s state tournament looms large, he’s looking even farther down the road.
Rider want to be o part of the American junior team that competes in the United World Wrestling Championships next summer in Finland.
He’s got the blood lines. His father Trever was a state champ, as was his brother Isaac (in 2015).
Trever coached at Coal Ridge when Josiah was a youngster. By the time he was 4, the younger Rider was on the mat, his dad and the Titan wrestlers showing him the ropes. When he was 6, he was competing in national tournaments.
“I’ve always loved it,” he said.
Even by those standards, Josiah has taken the sport to another level. This past summer he competed in the Walsh Iron Man in Akron, Ohio. The tournament drew 20 of what are considered to be 25 of the country’s top prep teams.
Rider knocked off the top-seeded 69-kilogram wrestler from Oklahoma in the semifinals before losing in the championship match.
He’s had help along the way. In addition to Isaac, Rider has had the benefit of wrestling some solid teammates in the practice room. As a freshman, he frequently squared off against Jacob Trujillo, who was on his way to his second-consecutive state title.
Grand Junction head coach Cole Allison said that’s no coin coincidence.
“Studs come in pairs,” said Allison, himself a two-time state champion in the early 2000s at Montezuma-Cortez.
Last year, Allison pitted Rider against Dylan Martinez, another eventual state placer.
Go back even further, during his formative years, when Rider spent a lot of time sparring against Myles Wilson, who last year became only the sixth wrestler to win a state title from Glenwood Springs. Wilson, a senior, did an early signing this fall to wrestle at the University of Iowa.
“We went at it for five years,” said Rider, who continues to check in with his friend on a weekly basis on their results. To this day, “(In) the off-season, it’s me and him” going toe to toe.
But as much as he had pushing him in the practice room, “Lots of his comes from within,” Allison said. “He’s put a lot into it.”
Since he’s reached high-school age, Rider has relied on Allison at both the scholastic or the club level.
“He’s the guy,” Rider said Allison, in whom he has complete trust. “He knows his stuff.”
The key, says Allison, is that Rider is never satisfied.
“He’s always looking improve,” the coach said.
That’s not just from match to match, but from practice to practice. Allison has challenged himself to come up with practice plans that, even on a small basis, try to help Rider get better every day.
“It’s about motivation in the (practice) room,” Rider said.
But don’t just take their word for it. Ask an opposing coach.
Dan Van Hoose, the Fruita Monument head coach whose son lost to Rider in the Warrior Classic finals and is well familiar with him, has nothing but praise for Rider.
“The biggest reason I respect him is he’s so humble, so natural,” the elder Van Hoose said.
As an opposing coach, “You can’t plan against him.”
As coaches, Van Hoose and Allison both agree.
“He’s a once-in-a-lifetime kid,” said Van Hoose, whose son plans to drop a weight class to 138 after the winter break.
“There are a lot of things that make (Rider) special,” Allison said.
But the main thing, according to Allison, is, “He’s always looking to improve.”
That’s something you can’t coach.