LAKE VIEW, Iowa -- Evan Boger remembers picking up a slip of paper about the youth wrestling program in the East Sac County Community School District seven years ago. He was a third-grader at the time.
"I took the sign-up sheet home to my dad and asked him if I could try wrestling," Boger recalled.
His father, he said, looked at the paper and then back at his son, then said, "Son, you can do anything you set your mind to."
Evan Boger has been involved in wrestling ever since. Last month, not long before the Christmas break, Boger earned his first varsity victory, registering a second-period pin over West Central Valley's Dylan Wells in the 113-pound match in a meet at Rockwell City, Iowa.
Fans rose and cheered wildly for Evan as he headed back to the East Sac County Raiders bench. Before doing so, he raised his left index finger while the official raised his left hand to signal the win. "I guess I put up my finger because it was my first victory in an actual match," Boger said. "I've won by forfeit before, but that's the only time I've really beat someone."
Evan has legs to the knees, the result of a condition at birth, a condition, he said, that's "thirty-five letters long. I can't even pronounce it." His right arm extends only to the elbow, a fused joint that features one finger.
The son of Tony and Joani Boger of Wall Lake, Iowa, said he's followed his father's path. Tony, after all, was born without a knee joint and an ankle joint. When Tony Boger was a 12-year-old, his legs were amputated at the knee. That didn't stop him from wrestling as a high schooler.
"My dad got second in a junior varsity tournament once," Evan Boger said.
And while mother, Joani, was moved to tears watching their son record his first pin that evening, Tony Boger couldn't attend. He was back in Wall Lake working at the Lake Lanes bowling alley, pitching in for his uncle, Darrin Boger, the Lakes Lanes owner who is undergoing cancer treatments.
"Mom and I stopped at the bowling alley on our way home that night," Evan said. "And that's where I told Dad that I got a pin. He hugged me."
Evan said it meant so much to him to share it that way because of his dad's encouragement. "Dad drove me to my first wrestling practice in third grade and he stayed there the whole time," Evan said. "I never forgot it."
Chaps Wilcke, a former OABCIG High School prep who teaches science and serves as wrestling coach at East Sac County High School in Lake View, said Evan's victory got the crowd and the team going. "It did get loud," he said. "It made us all feel good because Evan has dealt with and overcome so much adversity."
Evan, who also plays percussion in the school band, smiled as his coach hailed his efforts. He's simply happy his presence toward the bottom of the lineup has helped the Raiders continue a turnaround on the mat. Evan picked up a pair of forfeit victories on Thursday, contributing points in victories over Manson-Northwest Webster and Pocahontas Area. And while the Raiders suffered a setback that night to Okoboji, the hosts saw their dual-meet ledger improve to 13-8. The team, according to Wilcke, finished 10-15 one year ago, Wilcke's third year at East Sac. Four years ago there were six active wrestlers on the roster, a group that has grown three-fold since that time.
"Evan has a great attitude, just a great kid with a wonderful sense of humor," added John Smith, an assistant coach serving East Sac.
Evan's record after Thursday stands at 11-11 and that's likely where it may end the season as he faces surgery on Friday at Buena Vista Regional Medical Center to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He'll remain in a sling and inactive for six weeks following the surgery.
"I injured my shoulder doing some wrestling early last summer and it's never healed," he said.
While it will be tough to miss the remainder of the season, Evan Boger said he'll start working as soon as he can to return to action next season as the Raiders continue their march.
"I plan on coming back," said Boger. "This sport is a mental game and that's why I like it: I've been in a mental game my whole life."
He'll keep challenging himself mentally to get back in shape to earn more victories for his teammates next winter. He said he'll do his best to help teammate Peyton Wunschel (120 pounds) improve next year. He'll do all he can to use the instruction provided by Wilcke, Smith and Coach Sam Ellis as an upperclassman.
"I love the sport," he concluded. "I've loved watching this program grow."