When Chas Betts started the St. Michael-Albertville Youth Wrestling program in first grade, his parents had no idea the journey they had begun.
“I wrestled as a kid, and I thought it’d be fun for him to try it out,” his father, Pete said. “He won his first match and we never looked back!”
Friday, July 27, the dream will take Chas from St. Michael to London, England, where he will walk in during the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympic Games.
"It's just going to be a great experience," Chas said. "It's something that I worked very hard for, and something that I always thought I could do. But I'm not just there to have fun."
Chas, who is a 2004 graduate of St. Michael-Albertville High School has been on the edge of his Olympic dream now for eight years. The Greco-Roman wrestler, who qualified in Iowa back in April.
He tried out for the olympic team in 2008, but his family said they knew 2012 would be the year.
“He was younger then, we knew that with a little more experience, this would be his year,” Pete said.
His high school coach, Gregg Greeno, said Chas' work ethic has always been his advantage.
"He's just been tenacious, ever since he was in youth wrestling," Greeno, who was recently inducted into the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches' Hall of Fame, said. "I've been fortunate to have some really talented guys, and he's been one of the best. He's constantly worked to improve. And he's sacrificed a lot to be there."
Chas has wrestled overseas and lived in Colorado Springs for the past several years, leaving behind his wife, parents and siblings in the process.
The crew will get together Saturday for a proper St. Michael-Albertville sendoff. The Betts Family will be honored at Neighbors with a party, beginning at 3:30 p.m.
His family will be there, celebrating a goal Pete knew was attainable for his oldest boy.
“By the time he was getting out of high school I started really thinking he was going to do it," Pete said.
But his goal isn’t just going, he wants to win a medal.
“He won’t be happy just competing, he’s worked too hard for that. His goal is to win a medal,” Pete said. “I’m just as proud as can be of him for putting the work in and being as dedicated as he is. This wasn’t his mom and I pushing him, this was him pushing himself."
For Chas, the week that will conclude with him on the mats on Aug. 6 will be the pinnacle of a career. But will it be the end?
"We'll have to see how that goes. You kind of think that, if it goes well, it could be the end. It'd be a great way to go out."
No matter what he decides, a career of hard work is paying off this year. Betts knocked off a Cuban opponent to win gold in the Pan-Am games earlier this year, to prepare for the Olympic trials.
Last weekend, he had to knock off a friend and teammate on the Minnesota Storm in Northfield's Holm, but used a solid strategy to earn his spot.
"It's kind of put in our heads from the first day that the Olympics is something special," Betts said. "It's the one the last things left that brings the whole world together. I'm excited to be part of that."
The biggest obstacle in London? Russia?
"They're just solid. Top to bottom. But in those late rounds, you hope anything can happen."