Not your average Joe

Joe LeBlanc shares his struggles and triumphs through wrestling camp

Joe LeBlanc demonstrates a takedown move with Braden Peterson of Moffat County on Saturday during the Live to Dominate wrestling camp at Central. In addition to wrestling, LeBlanc uses the camp to share his story.

Paonia wrestlers Jesse Reed, left, and Josh Altman were two of the 20 participants at Saturday’s Live to Dominate Technique Camp at Central. Reed was pleased to be able to learn a few moves from Joe LeBlanc, a three-time state champion from Meeker who was the instructor of the camp.


Wrestling camp helps LeBlanc give back

When Jesse Reed heard former Meeker High School three-time state champion Joe LeBlanc would be in Grand Junction for a camp, the two-time Paonia state champion signed up for it.

“I watched him when he was in high school at the state tournament a couple times,” Reed said. “I saw some of his matches in college, so that was pretty cool. I knew he was a three-timer (state champion) and four-time All-American, so I thought, ‘Why not come down here and learn from one of the best?’ “

Reed and Paonia teammates Josh Altman and Bo Pipher were three of 20 wrestlers to participate in the Live to Dominate Wrestling Technique Camp on Saturday afternoon at Central High School.

“He does a lot of the same stuff I like to do with the Russian tie,” Pipher said. “It’s good to learn positioning on that. You can do a lot of different moves out of it.”

The Russian tie is used to set up several takedown moves. It involves a wrestler using both hands to hold one arm.

LeBlanc, who is now an assistant coach at the University of Indiana, remembers attending camps on the Western Slope when he was in high school and wanted to offer that for the youth in the area.

“Northwest Colorado has been in a serious slump, between Craig and Meeker, Grand Junction a little bit,” LeBlanc said. “Paonia is the only one that really held out. I can’t stand to see Eastern Slope schools win.

“I always loved it when people would come back and help out. Have camps in our area, so we didn’t have to drive five-six hours for a camp. I wanted to bring a camp to these guys. I called up Laurence (Gurule, Central’s coach) and a bunch of people to get six dates scheduled. It’s turned out great. I think the kids are getting something out of it. I enjoy it. I love wrestling camps.”

Gurule helped make it happen.

“Joe did a clinic for all the high school coaches at the coaches meeting back in November,” Gurule said. “We got to talking and thought maybe he could come here and do a camp. He called me and we set a date.

“I’m disappointed in the showing, but it’s late in the (offseason). Usually the kids wrestling now are the ones going to Fargo (N.D., for club nationals).”

Gurule said he hopes LeBlanc brings his camp back next year.

— Allen Gemaehlich

On the surface, it looks like Joe LeBlanc’s life is perfect.

He was a three-time high school state champion, a four-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler and the University of Wyoming school record holder for wins (147).

Yet, LeBlanc, 24, has his own troubles in life like anyone else, and he wants to share that message with young athletes as he did Saturday in Grand Junction while conducting his Live to Dominate Wrestling Technique Camp.

LeBlanc grew up without his father, Randy, a medical doctor, who died in an automobile accident when Joe was 3 years old, forcing his oldest brother, Barny, to become the man of the house at 13.

“When my real dad died, my grandpa told Barny, ‘You are the man of the house now. You’ve got to take that role seriously,’ ” LeBlanc said. “He was a mentor to me even though it was hard.”

His mother, Sharon, remarried Randy’s good friend Brent Sullivan about a year later, and raised the five LeBlanc children and Sullivan’s daughter.

Sullivan worked with Joe in wrestling and was his assistant coach at Meeker High School.

Sullivan struggled with his business, LeBlanc said, and committed suicide on July 4, 2010. LeBlanc and his wife, Amanda, were the last to see him alive, he said.

“He was always so strong,” LeBlanc said. “His business problems got to him.”

LeBlanc went back to school in August that year, but instead of carrying guilt, LeBlanc remembered Sullivan as a loving, caring person and used that as motivation to succeed.

“From that point forward, I got straight A’s the rest of my career,” LeBlanc said. “Out of 27 classes, I got 26 A’s and I took pre-med classes because I thought I was going to med school.”

Sharon has been there for him, too, as she leans on her faith. She has remarried — another former wrestler, Steve Parr of Meeker.

“My mom through all the articles and blessings I’ve got, has never been heralded,” LeBlanc said with tears in his eyes. “My mom is one of the most steadfast, strongest, loving women in the world. To deal with the things she’s been dealt with, like losing her husband, to kids who went through some tough times.

“She’s the rock our family stands on. There’s no greater love for our family than she has. I truly believe that.”

LeBlanc said his troubles have been a burden on his wife and family, but they continue to work through it. They have two boys, Tyson, 3, and Colby, 2, with another child due in February.

“My wife, Amanda, is an amazing girl,” LeBlanc said. “I can’t say enough about her. Sorry, I’m tearing up. She means so much to me. She’s been through so much in my family.

“What I love about her is she seeks God with her whole heart. She desires to seek God with her whole heart.”

He finished his collegiate career and graduated from the University of Wyoming in 2012 with a degree in kinesiology and health promotion, and had a job waiting for him as an assistant wrestling coach at the University of Indiana.

LeBlanc started a Live to Dominate Wrestling Technique Camp this summer and is back in Colorado this month for it.

Prior to his Grand Junction stop, he conducted his camp in Meeker, Fort Collins and Akron and is planning camps Tuesday in Hayden and Thursday in Denver.

His camps offer more than wrestling technique. They are about spreading the word of God.

“We are to evangelize and spread the good news to the world,” LeBlanc said. “There are kids out there struggling just like I was, and they need to hear the Gospel.”

LeBlanc was raised in a Christian church and was baptized when he was 16.

“I realize more and more I rely completely on God,” he said. “Without him, I’m nothing, and I cannot sustain myself. It’s only by his mercy that he allows me to live another day and have all these blessings.

“I know for a fact, He gave me the gifts in wrestling and the success. Tons of people have injuries. There are things out of your control. I know God gave me the success I had in wrestling so I can use it for his glory. That’s why I started my Live to Dominate wrestling camps.”

LeBlanc is careful with his message, knowing it might offend some people.

“What I don’t do is go out there and preach, ‘If you don’t change your views, you’re going to hell,’ ” LeBlanc said. “What I like to do is go out and share my testimony how the Lord has worked in my life and how he’s sustained me in my life through all my trials and tribulations. The peace I have in Him and the grace He gave me, I like to share that because we’re all sinners. We need hope God will forgive them. At the end of each camp, I give a short sermon.”

After LeBlanc’s camps are done, he’ll return to Indiana for his second season as an assistant coach.

Although he’s enjoying coaching, he’s not certain about his future in it.

“I’m not really sure if I want to do this long-term,” he said. “I’m enjoying it now, but it’s hard on a family.”


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