MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The state wrestling individual tournament started this morning at the Xcel Energy Center.
But for a pair of twin brothers from Marshall, the journey to get there has been longer than most — and they’ve had the support of an entire community.
When Al Roth watches a wrestling match, he does it with his whole heart…
“Yeah, I get pretty intense,” Al said.
There’s a sizeable crowd in the Marshall cheering section, behind their boys with passion.
“It’s like watching your own kids, basically. Because we’re kind of a tight-knit group,” Al said. “But the twins are kind of, they’re a little special.”
The twins — Hsa Khee and Hsa Law — are Karen refugees. They were born in Burma but when they were two months old they had to flee across the border to neighboring Thailand.
“We lived in a refugee camp called Noh Poe.” Hsa Kee said.
That’s where they grew up. Sometimes without enough to eat.
“And we moved to the United States at the age of 9 or 10,” Hsa Law said. “It was completely different. Because of the snow and weather.”
They’d never seen snow before.
“We thought it was like ice cream at first, but then we realized we could go buy ice cream at the shop,” Hsa Kee said.
Al first met them when they were in 6th grade when the boys went out for wrestling with Al’s son. Since then, he and his wife Mary have gotten increasingly involved in their lives and really taken them under their wing.
“Oh I don’t know, just try to help out whenever we can,” Al said. “It’s not just us, it’s everybody. If they need a ride somewhere, everybody’s willing to help out.”
The whole wrestling community, it turns out, has come alongside them.
“It’s like a big family. The wrestling family, we call it,” Al said. “Everybody’s there to help them, everybody kind of pitches in and helps them.”
With their parents working hard to make ends meet, having the larger community there for them, helping to adjust to life in America, has been important — especially Al and Mary.
“They’re like a step-parent. They always try to help us out,” Hsa Kee said.
“I think it’s amazing. They come over here in 2nd grade not knowing any English, and how well they do in school, it’s just a credit to them and a credit to their teachers in Marshall,” Al said. “It’s just amazing how far they’ve come. And the sky’s the limit for those kids. They’ve got the work ethic, they can do anything they really want. … They’re just wonderful people. Wonderful kids.”
Resilient, tough kids — with a really big family behind them.