Two years away from the sport he loves were enough for Skyler Lykins.
After wrestling his freshman season for Colorado School of Mines in 2014-15, Lykins, a Franklin Community High School graduate, served a 23-month church-sponsored mission in the northern Brazilian states of Amazonas and Acre.
Lykins remained in Brazil for the duration of his excursion, never once returning to visit family and friends.
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Last August, Lykins finally got to see his parents, Matt and Maryjo, and his three younger sisters. The family relocated to the tiny Montana town of Stevensville three years ago to help care for Maryjo’s mother, whose health was in decline.
Lykins, who majors in petroleum engineering at Colorado Mines, got back in time for the start of classes. He chose to redshirt this season in wrestling, but he still is going through daily practices with the Orediggers.
He’ll be 45 months removed from representing the school in competition the next time he steps on a mat in November.
“Honestly, wrestling to me is kind of like riding a bike,” said Lykins, who placed sixth in the 2014 Indiana state finals at 138 pounds and became the second Grizzly Cub wrestler to take home the prestigious Ward E. Brown Mental Attitude Award.
“It takes about a month to get my conditioning back,” he added. “I’m pretty conditioned naturally, so I didn’t worry too much about it.”
Starting in September 2015, Lykins’ focus centered on the residents of Amazonas and Acre, and how to make their lives better. His role, though not specifically defined, included mentoring, educating and attending important events such as baptisms and arranged marriages.
Amazonas, located in the northwest corner of Brazil, is the largest of the country’s states in terms of size; it’s slightly smaller than Alaska. Acre is much smaller and directly west of Amazonas.
“Really, my main role was to help people any way I could,” he said. “There wasn’t a particular project to work on. We were mainly teaching people about their purpose in life. The message is that we’re all sons and daughters of our heavenly father, and we all have a purpose here.
“As they see our Christ-like service, they’ll see the light. Everyone at some point in their life sees someone who is different.”
The Brazilian jungle includes acai palm tree, which is supposed to be virtually impossible to climb for those who weren’t born and raised in the Amazon. Lykins made it to the top on his first try, shimmied his way back down and had the triumphant moment captured with a photo.
“The mission trip was the best time of my life,” he said. “When you do something like that it goes so fast, and you just feel amazing.”
Lykins is back at Colorado School of Mines, located in the city of Golden, about 15 miles west of Denver. Colorado Mines educates approximately 5,800 students, and Orediggers sports teams compete in Division II.
As a freshman wrestler, Lykins excelled as a 149-pounder, posting a 25-11 record. Earlier this month, he put the singlet back on to wrestle as an independent in the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Open, which was hosted by Colorado School of Mines.
Lykins won all four of his matches to capture the 157-pound division.
He’ll be a redshirt sophomore during the 2018-19 season, and he is planning to wrestle all the way through his senior season of eligibility (2020-21).
“Skyler is definitely the favorite to be our starter at 157 next season, and I really believe he’ll be an All-American,” Mines wrestling coach Austin Devoe said. “Skyler is a special kid. He’s confident in himself and has a lot of leadership qualities.”