ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — The story of Josh Roetman is one that resonates with many Alaskan athletes — a story that encapsulates the struggle to get exposure to college coaches while living in rural Alaska, and also trying to compete at a high level with minimal resources or competition.
Despite the odds, the former Kotzebue wrestler has made a name for himself at the United States Naval Academy, going toe to toe with some of the biggest athletic programs in the nation.
The Navy junior moved to Kotzebue when he was in third grade, and was quickly drawn to wrestling.
“It’s a bigger deal in those smaller villages, and figured I might as well try it,” Roetman said of the sport.
He developed a strong relationship with his high school wrestling coach, Mark Lane, who took over the Kotzebue High School program in 2004. Roetman said Lane, a former NAIA national champion, built a high quality experience for him and other wrestlers despite having minimal resources.
“I had a buddy, we’d go cross-country skiing in the winter, we’d get keys to the school and wrestle during break,” Roetman said over the phone. “Find anyway to try and stay on the mat.”
On top of getting creative with training, Roetman and Lane did their fair share of traveling over the summer. Roetman’s prep wrestling career saw a slow rise to success after taking fifth and third in the state as an underclassman.
Things would start to click during his junior year, when he went on to win back-to-back state titles. In 2015 he caught the eye of the Naval Academy after being named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the Reno Tournament of Champions.
For Roetman, serving in the military and being able to wrestle in college drew him to Navy.
“The guys talked a little different, they carried themselves a little different,” Roetman said, describing his recruiting trip to Navy’s campus.
Roetman spent 2014-15 at the Naval Academy Prep school before earning a 7-5 record as freshman wrestler.
“It’s definitely a dream come true, I definitely have to remind myself of that at times,” said Roetman. “I never forget being the small town village kid, and I definitely have that reputation on our team.”
After graduating from the academy, Roetman will be chosen to serve in either the Navy or Marine Corps for five years.