Freshman wrestler Isaac Trumble has traveled a long way to get to where he is now. The sport has taken the No. 18 wrestler in the 197-pound weight class many miles from his native Springfield, Nebraska, but according to Trumble, this journey has been about growing as a wrestler and a person as much as it has been about geographic relocation.
Lying just southwest of Omaha, Nebraska, wrestling in Springfield, Nebraska initially gave Trumble an outlet to unleash his frustration growing up before evolving into a mode of self-reliance.
“I think it was the aspect of an individual sport where I’m kind of by myself,” Trumble said. “But then it’s also a team sport. I loved how I could go out there, when I was younger, and release my anger. Now it has gotten a lot better to where I can go out and I can work out on my own, do stuff alone and not rely on anyone else. Coming here to NC State, I knew that the culture was that everyone was going to be doing the exact same thing I’m doing: working their butts off. I’m not going to be the only one.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic altered all aspects of life, Trumble’s transition to NC State was no exception. The importance of protecting those around him was so pronounced to the Midwesterner that he devised a strategy to prevent his journey eastward from causing unnecessary turmoil.
“When I first got here in the fall, when I was coming down to NC State driving here, I drove by myself for 18 hours straight through,” Trumble said. “In that car for 18 hours, in my head, I kept telling myself that I had COVID. So I was freaking myself out because when I got there I knew I got COVID tested. In my head, I had told myself I had COVID, and I was scared. When I got COVID tested, I was just staying in my room and everyone thought I was super weird because I wouldn’t come out of my room. It was just because I didn’t want to give it to anyone else. And then I got my test back, and it was negative, so I was super happy, and then I started interacting with people.”
For Trumble, that sense of duty extends to the mat as well. Whether upsetting Pittburgh’s then-No. 5 Nino Bonaccorsi in his collegiate debut or suffering his first loss at the college level from a pin by Duke’s Kaden Russell, Trumble makes a point to congratulate his opponent on a bout well-fought.
“Over in Nebraska, we always shook hands after and before matches, and we shook the coach’s hand,” Trumble said. “It’s a respect thing. The kids put in the work, the coaches have put in the work into the kid and I respect that. I’m going to be wrestling with these kids plenty of more times until I’m done wrestling, so I want to keep the respect going between everyone.”
The hand-shaking aspect gives off the vibe of an office environment when added to the fact that Trumble was unfazed by Bonaccorsi leading up to the match. According to Trumble, it was business as usual.
“There’s always nerves going into any wrestling match, but I knew my coaches and I watched film and we knew what he was going to do, so I was ready for the moment,” Trumble said. “Yes, I’m a freshman, but we put in tons of training in the offseason when I was back in Nebraska. We put in training when I came here at PNC. I put in the work, and I told myself I worked hard enough, and I deserved this and I went out and took it.”
Trumble has taken care of business in practice as well. Leading up to his meteoric rise in collegiate wrestling, Trumble was given a few pointers by his coaches to help him make his mark.
“It’s weird to me because I didn’t really get good at wrestling until my junior or senior year of high school,” Trumble said. “Everyone told me, ‘You’re going to go to college. You’re going to get your butt kicked for a year or two, and then you can make a name for yourself.’ But one of my coaches back at home, he told me, ‘You go there and you find the biggest, meanest person and you give it to him, and you make a name for yourself in that first week of practices.’ That’s what I did, I tried to earn respect from my teammates. It’s not just for me, it’s for my whole team. I want to win, and we want to win NCAAs, and if that's what’s got to happen then I’ll do it.”
Those coaches have not just kept in touch with the standout Nebraskan on wrestling matters but also to gauge the difference in local cuisine. More specifically, how the Midwestern styles of barbecue found in places like Kansas City, Missouri, measure up against the eastern North Carolina tradition in the dish.
“We’ve got this place in Omaha called Hog Wild Pit Bar-B-Q, and it is very good barbecue,” Trumble said. “But since COVID and wrestling, I haven’t had the opportunity to explore the food. But I have heard there’s big barbecue here. My coaches back at Nebraska, every time they call they’re like, ‘Have you had barbecue yet?’ And I’m like, ‘No.’ But once wrestling season is over, I’m sure I will be exploring the barbecue world here.”
Only time will tell whether Trumble will sport the title of “national champion” by the time he takes his first bite of barbecue made east of the Mississippi River. But either way, Trumble will have made quite the journey to get there.