A Hawk grappler for the ages

Meet Norm Buntting, Class of '71

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© HAWKEYE Ciara Laney

Former wrestler and Terrace alumnus Norm Buntting kneels on the wrestling mats in the Terraceum with his service dog Charlie. The pair are a common sight at wrestling matches, cheering on the current generation of competitors.

By Ritika Khanal, Op/Ed Editor

Norm Buntting, a 1971 Terrace graduate, still deeply loves wrestling 49 years after his time representing the Hawks. In fact, at every MTHS wrestling match, he and his service dog Charlie can be found sitting on the benches, cheering on the team for which he was once a central member. No matter how far away the matches may be, Buntting loves supporting the wrestlers and meeting new people connected to the wrestling program.

“It’s such a friendly group,” he said regarding Terrace’s wrestling team.

In high school, Buntting described himself as quiet, timid and passive. However, in junior high school, which then encompassed seventh, eighth and ninth grades, he discovered that he was good at wrestling. Wrestling soon became the sport that brought out the stronger, more confident side of his personality.

Buntting particularly enjoys wrestling due to the individual challenge it presents, in contrast to the dependence on teams that characterizes most other sports.

“As an individual, it’s my win or my loss even though we kept a team score, whereas any other sports you’re in, you could do your best and somebody else lets the team down,” he said.

To this day, Buntting still has the personalized ribbons that the wrestlers would receive before matches, bearing individualized messages such as “Pin ‘em Norm.” These ribbons were meant to motivate the wrestlers before they faced their competitors.

Buntting also experienced a boost to his social status as a result of joining the team.

“After I started wrestling, girls were trying to flirt with me and I didn’t even realize it,” he joked. “Without wrestling, I was a nobody in the school, but as a wrestler, everybody knew me and would high five me in the halls to congratulate me after every match.”

After high school, Buntting went on to work for various different companies, all having to do with physical and mechanical labor. However, he often came back to wrestle with the students at MTHS and eventually started a beginner’s wrestling program for kids in the area who were not as experienced with the sport.

“I found the experience to be super fun,” he said. “It was fun to see the kids go through high school and graduate as wrestlers.”

For Buntting, wrestling is a way to stay involved with the community that made him into who he is today, especially during the winter months when the wrestling season takes place.

Throughout his life, some of Buntting’s biggest inspirations have been the wrestling coaches that we worked with over the years.

“I was a pretty emotional guy, and having that calming influence in my life was nice,” he said.

From his coaches, he learned the importance of a strong work ethic, staying calm in tense situations and the importance of excitement during times of triumph. He has taken these lessons with him throughout his life, and was especially able to apply them during his time as a coach.

“Just knowing that I helped someone develop their skills and improve is the most rewarding thing for me,” he said.

One of Buntting’s favorite memories of coaching is teaching wrestling positions to one of the wrestlers on his team. A couple of weeks later, the dad of that student came up to him and told him that the wrestler had used that technique in a match and won.

“That was pretty cool,” he said.

When he is not watching a wrestling match, Buntting can be found racing boats or going on nice long hikes with his friends. However, the interest that has remained most consistent during his life has been his love of sports. Every summer for 30 years, Buntting used to race hydroplanes competitively, taking second place in a national competition and reaching a world-renowned speed.

After hearing about boat racing from a friend, Buntting decided to get involved, and for five years he would serve as the rescue boat, retrieving people from the water when their boats capsized.

alum“It was super fun,” he said. “I still go watch the races.”

In addition to the various sporting activities he is involved in, Buntting also enjoys connecting with old friends from his high school years. His class, the class of 1971, still stays in contact to this day, organizing gatherings every year and staying connected on Facebook.

“It’s really nice to see who will show up and to see where everybody is,” he said. “I never see those people except at those events, so it’s cool to see who will show up.”

Thinking back on high school, some of Buntting’s favorite memories were the outside hallways of the old MTHS school, and the Hawk dome.

“Things have definitely changed a lot since I went there,” he said.

However, he thoroughly enjoyed his time at the school and is grateful for all of the wonderful memories that it provided him.

“I just loved being here, meeting new people and hanging out with friends,” he said.

In terms of advice for high school students today, he recognizes that many things for kids these days have changed.

“There are a lot more activities for kids these days, and everyone is so busy,” he said.

“But the more you learn, the more you can grow. You can achieve anything you want to through learning.”