While wrestling has been an instrumental part of Cael Carlson’s family over the years, there is still one thing that runs deeper in the Carlson blood: the family farm.
About two hours west of the Twin Cities is where you will find the Carlson dairy farm in Pennock, Minnesota, a farm that consists of over 1800 Holstein dairy cows and was founded by Cael’s great, great grandfather in 1891. Since then, the farm has been maintained by Cael’s grandfather, who wrestled in high school, as well as his dad and uncle, Chad and Carl, who combined for three Minnesota state titles and both competed for the Gophers in the 1990s.
Now, Cael, who has two state titles in his own right for Willmar High School, has every intention of following in his family’s footsteps and becoming a fifth-generation dairy farmer. Before that, he hopes to build on an impressive debut as a true freshman in 2019-20. Competing unattached, Carlson compiled a 17-5 record with nine pins and an individual title at the Don Parker Open.
A double major in agricultural business management and animal science with an emphasis in dairy production, the redshirt freshman is taking advantage of his athletic and academic pursuits in hopes of using his newfound knowledge back home on the farm, fulfilling a passion that has been instilled in him ever since he was a little kid.
“I couldn’t imagine doing anything else in my life,” Carlson stated.
Carlson’s tasks on the farm varied as he was growing up. It started by shadowing his father, helping with miscellaneous tasks such as daily maintenance or feeding the cows. As he grew older, his role shifted into learning more about the business side of dairy farming.
However, maybe even more important as a student-athlete are the values learned that translate into the sport of wrestling. For Cael, it would be rare for him to find a lesson that he hasn’t already learned on the family farm.
“I think farming has helped me in having the physical and mental strength that is needed to compete at the highest-level of the sport,” Cael said.
The responsibility of doing his chores on the farm goes hand-in-hand with his obligations to be successful in the classroom. The grit that he shows after a long day in the practice room is that same attitude he carries working outside during those cold winter months. The adversity that Cael may have faced in the sport of wrestling doesn’t even compare to the adversity of when a tornado hit his farm three summers ago. Yet, in both aspects of life, Carlson knows how to overcome those obstacles.
If you could summarize everything he has learned on the farm though, it would be hard work.
“The great thing about farming is that it teaches kids about life in the real world and that no matter how you were feeling at times, some things just need to be done” Cael added, or as he bluntly puts it, “You can’t just take a holiday or a sick day from the cows.”
At the end of the day, what brings him back to the farm every year is his family.
“I remember looking around one day and seeing my dad, brothers, grandma, uncle, and cousins all working in the field together. It wasn’t about working for the cows, it was us working for our family and our traditions. I don’t know many occupations where you can work with your family every day and that is so special to me,” Carlson recalls.
So, once his wrestling days at the University of Minnesota are over, it will be back to the farm for Cael. It may seem like a simple life, but he wouldn’t want it any other way.