Whenever he enters a competition, Cameron Schrempp said he sets the bar high.
Whether it has been boxing, mixed martial arts or wrestling, the 25-year-old Dickinson State student-athlete has made it his job to do as well as he possibly can.
He said his inspiration has been his 4-yearold son, Aiden, and the countless other children from his hometown of Eagle Butte, S.D., an area where nearly half the population lives beneath the poverty line.
“Setting the bar not just for my son, but where I came from, a lot of kids don’t have anyone to look up to,” said Schrempp, a graduate of Cheyenne-Eagle Butte High School. “I kind of want to set the bar for kids, for someone to look up to.”
Schrempp said he plans to return home when he graduates from DSU in the spring of 2014 and help run his family’s farm and ranch. He has already dipped his toes in the family business, too, with about 25 head of cattle to his name. He also has aspirations of becoming a coach.
“That’s my plan, is to go back home and probably do something with coaching, maybe get a teaching job and own a ranch on the side,” said Schrempp, who added he intends on becoming the first person in his family to graduate from a college or university.
This weekend, however, there’s different business at hand: the NAIA national wrestling tournament.
Though he has at least one more year of school left, Schrempp is in his senior season for the No. 3-ranked Blue Hawks. He enters the national tournament as the NAIA North Group champion with a 21-3 record and the No. 6 ranking at 174 pounds.
It’s been quite a year for Schempp, a twotime NAIA all-American who didn’t compete last season and had to join the Blue Hawks for only the second semester because he had reached his NAIA limit of 12 semesters in which he could compete as a student-athlete.
Schrempp knows he didn’t have to come back to the wrestling team.
As he enters the final weekend of his career, he is glad he did.
“This team here is probably the most fun I’ve ever had with a team since forever, since I started wrestling,” Schrempp said. “Everyone is so dedicated. We’ve got so much heart in the room, it’s unbelievable.”
DSU junior Jesse Hellinger, who will wrestle at nationals at 184 pounds, often tangles with Schrempp in the wrestling room and called him “one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen,” and an elder statesman of sorts more than willing to set aside time to help his teammates.
“If you need someone to show you something, to teach you, he’s been around the sport forever,” Hellinger said. “He has the knowledge. Then, if you ever want someone to push you in the weight room, he has the knowledge in there.”
Schrempp grew up with combat sports on the brain.
His father, Dan Schrempp, was a Golden Gloves boxer who competed at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Cameron Schrempp has competed and found success at MMA events and he’ll leave DSU as one of the most successful wrestlers of the past decade. He reached nationals as a freshman in 2009, took fourth as sophomore in 2010 and finished eighth in 2011 while battling influenza and bronchitis throughout the tournament.
“He definitely likes to compete. He likes to see how tough he is,” DSU head wrestling coach Thadd O’Donnell said. “Guys that are good wrestlers, they don’t care so much about the wins and losses, they just like to compete. That’s one of the questions we ask them when we’re recruiting guys: ‘What is your level of love for competing?’ He definitely loves to compete.”
Like a championship fighter, Schrempp said Tuesday that he feels more relaxed than he has ever has in the time leading up to a major competition.
“I’ve never felt this feeling,” he said. “This is kind of a weird feeling right now. I’m just mellow and excited. I’m ready to go.”