Sawyer Bartelt: A Force of Nature on the Mat

From Gladiator to Buccaneer to Cyclone
Senior Sawyer Bartelt, 4x state champion, with his state championship medals.
Senior Sawyer Bartelt, 4x state champion, with his state championship medals.
Yeimi Solorzano

As an active 4-year-old kid, Sawyer Bartelt needed an outlet to burn off some energy. After going through both soccer and gymnastics, his mom decided to put him in wrestling after an old friend from high school reached out to her about his wrestling club.

“He had just turned four, and when we went to check it out, it was all big kids just doing their warm-up, and he loved it,” Sawyer’s mom, Michelle Bartelt, said.

Almost immediately, Sawyer was captivated by the sport that would soon take over the rest of his life. He looked up to the rest of the club members, trying to emulate and be just like them.

“He tried to do everything they did. He listened attentively and was staring at these guys like they were heroes. He was just so in awe of these guys that everything they did, he wanted to do too.”

15 years later, Sawyer is an undefeated 4-time state champion, who has also won several national titles and represented the USA at Worlds.

From around 6 years old, he grew up in the Gladiator Wrestling club, coached by Humberto “Duck” Reyna. Through over a decade of combined efforts from Sawyer, his family, and Coach Duck, he has proven to Duck that there is no secret or magic to making an athlete, all it takes is passion and drive.

“You don’t get many kids like Sawyer, they don’t come by that often. It’s been a fun ride to see him grow throughout the years, because not many coaches gets to coach their kids from 6 years old and see them become a young man,” Coach Duck said.

Sawyer, age 4, with his first medal from the first wrestling tournament he competed in. (Bartelt Family)

In 8th grade, Sawyer wrestled for Doral Academy and made it all the way to the state final, where he went up against South Dade’s Joshua Swan, who ended up beating him. That loss was one of the last times he would ever feel that disappointment. He was able to make a comeback freshman year, being undefeated and winning against someone he was ranked under.

“That first state title, I wish I could go back to. I beat a senior my freshman year, and I was ranked behind him all year, so it just made it 10 times better,” Sawyer said.

His freshman season was just the beginning of his success. Through every meet and competition he has ever attended, Sawyer remains undefeated in the state of Florida. He is currently in the 215 lbs weight class, and with a record of 139-0, Sawyer’s record is one of the most impressive in not only school history but in the state of Florida this year.

“I had a goal freshman year to not lose any matches. It wasn’t really a focus, but it just happened and came true through all of my hard work.”

While he has an impressive wrestling record, he’s also a standout on the football team as an All-Dade defensive end and linebacker. He also sports a 4.379 weighted GPA, and is in the top 10% of the senior class. 

“I don’t really ever get a break from sports. Stopping wrestling and going into football season is my break from wrestling, and then coming back to wrestling is my break from football.”

Now that his high school career is over, wrestling coach Victor Balmeceda reflects on the entirety of his career and his contribution to the wrestling program at South Dade.

“It’s hard to say who the best of the best of the best is, but Sawyer is definitely up there. He has raised the bar for anyone who is going to be a South Dade wrestler. Nobody that stood across from him for 139 matches was able to defeat him. It’s perfection is what it is, 139 and 0 is perfection,” Balmeceda said.

Before school started this year, Sawyer traveled to Amman, Jordan to compete against other juniors from all over the world at the 2023 World Junior Wrestling Championships.

“My proudest moment has been making the Worlds team and getting to represent Team USA,” Sawyer said.

Even though there were ups and downs, the entire experience was one he is grateful for. “It was a crazy experience. We actually ended up getting sick pretty bad, the US, Ukraine, and Chinese teams, but other than that it was pretty cool. We went to the Dead Sea and rode camels, and it was just a good experience all together.”

Throughout high school, he has been looked at by multiple colleges and universities, and in February, he made the decision to wrestle for the Cyclones of Iowa State University, one of the top Division I schools in the nation.

“It’s the next step in my career and the next thing in my life. I’m only the second person from South Dade to go there, so this is new to my generation, and it’s new to me and my family. It’s going to be fun.”

Even though he has crushed all of the goals they have made as a family in the past, his dad feels that it is important to not add any extra pressure on his son.

“I would hope that he would continue on the path of what he is doing right now, and I hope that he continues to make good choices in whatever he does. So now moving forward, I don’t have any specific goals for him. As a dad and as a coach, I would love to see him just make the lineup. I don’t want to put any extra pressure on him, I just want him to go to college, enjoy it, and take it as far as he can,” Sawyer’s dad, Douglas Bartelt, said.

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  • J

    Joelle WorcesterApr 3, 2024 at 11:43 pm

    Amazing story, really loved the quotes on this one!

  • Y

    Younes AwashrehApr 3, 2024 at 11:25 pm

    That’s just awesome, Sawyer truly IS a force of nature, jeez. 139 and 0?
    Also, HE WENT TO THE DEAD SEA??? I lived like 10 miles away from it for 16 years of my life and never got to visit it, but that means he’s been in Palestine aswell!
    Also, congratulations on the award, Keira!

  • O

    Oberlin VidalesApr 3, 2024 at 8:36 am

    Awesome reporting.