Young Life Lite

When Patrick Lundberg of Young Life Otter Tail County, Minnesota, challenged Anthony, a sophomore at the local high school, to a wrestling match, he felt confident he could take the 16-year-old. After all, Lundberg was in the prime of his life. He had studied the signature moves of Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon and Bam Bam Bigelow on TV and he, himself, had been a wrestler. In sixth grade.

How hard could it be? A half-nelson, a single lower leg take-down and done. Anthony would sign up for camp. Finally. Lundberg had invited Anthony countless times and every time, Anthony refused. But with this challenge, Lundberg had found the way to pin him down. “Anthony, if I can beat you in a wrestling match, you’ll come to camp. Deal?” Anthony smiled and shook the area director’s hand. “You’ve got a deal.” Anthony would make good on this deal, Lundberg never doubted. A quick tussle on the Lundbergs’ lawn and just a few weeks later, Anthony would be boarding the bus to Frontier Ranch.

No sweat. (And certainly no blood or tears.) Or so he thought.

But Pat “The Lumbering” Lundberg had underestimated his 115-pound opponent. “This was an epic, big-time brawl. Anthony was scrappy. He just wouldn’t quit. I was nearly vomiting I was so torched at the end,” said Lundberg. “Our lawn suffered for weeks after.” The video another kid took was proof of the match and Lundberg’s hard-fought victory. It was also what kept neighbors from calling the police. Nothing to see here, folks. Just another Young Life stunt.

Anthony’s mom thought otherwise. The match that resulted in Anthony going to camp and hearing the truth about God’s love for him was indeed epic. “You weren’t just wrestling with Anthony that day,” she later told Lundberg, “you were wrestling with all the stuff that he’s been dealing with. When he came home, he was different. It’s like you wrestled all of the anxiety and darkness right out of him.”

Anthony acknowledged his earlier struggles and the impact of a leader on his life — in high school and middle school also. “I don’t know where I would be without Pat and my WyldLife leader before him.” Anthony served on work crew at Lost Canyon and said when he thinks “back to when life was really, really good, it was at Lost Canyon.”

Lundberg would say that Anthony’s path was not altogether straight after his camp experiences. Anthony agrees. The two fell out of touch when Anthony enlisted in the U.S. Army. It was just recently that they met up again and Lundberg learned that Anthony will enroll in North Dakota State University this fall to study criminal justice. He intends to enter law enforcement or law school after graduation.

Anthony, now 20 years old and a more formidable wrestler at six-feet tall, and 185 pounds, also plans to get involved in Young Life leadership, because he knows firsthand what it can mean to have a leader in your life. One who cares enough to “go to the mat” with you — and for you.