Mike Bambic had one of those parental moments that just have to make you laugh.

To put it bluntly he was basically called out by his son, Alex.

Alex, a sophomore at Desert Vista, had just come off the mat when he was 12 years old in 2007 and Mike did some critiquing of his son's performance.

Alex, not happy with himself and a bit irritable, basically said, "What do you know, you never wrestled."

It kind of stopped the elder Bambic in his tracks, and brought some clarity.

"He was right... I had never been in that position," Mike, 43, said. "I had been in the practice room with him, and I drilled with him, but I had never proven myself on the mat, never been in a match to know what it was like to go six minutes."

Fast forward five years, and more than 40 pounds lighter, and the Ahwatukee Foothills resident is competing in the Western Veterans Nationals in Tucson this week in Greco Roman (on Thursday) and freestyle (Friday) in the 214 pounds Veteran C division.

"I've come a long way considering I didn't win a match for four years," said Bambic, who graduated from Chandler in 1986. "I started out in open tournaments and got my butt kicked. I eventually got better and once you win a match you become addicted even more."

Picking up a technical sport like wrestling in your late 30s is a difficult thing to do and even a bit nutty.

"It was kind of crazy at first," said Alex, who won the Class 5A Division I 215-pound state title in February. "I wasn't sure what he was trying to do, but now I am supportive and hope he does good."

Plus, how many kids get to beat up on their dads and have the father be appreciative of it?

"I try to help him out and give him some pointers," said the younger Bambic, who is also competing in Tucson this weekend in the Western Junior Nationals. "Beating him is not as easy as it used to be."

Bambic's wife, Tina, said Mike's time on the mat has helped foster the relationship between father and son.

"I thought it was awesome, because then it gave him a feel for what Alex was going through on the mat," she said. "It brought them to a totally different level of understanding one another. I'm very proud of him and all the work he puts in to even be slightly competitive. It's a big accomplishment since he was never really an athlete in high school."

Bambic isn't sure where this is going to lead ultimately, but he does have high hopes - national champion.

"I want to get a national championship and I might be 68 before I am that good," he said.

The time on the mat also allowed him to complete his goal of losing 100 pounds after going to his 20-year reunion from Chandler High.

"One person recognized me," Bambic said. "I was sitting right next to someone who said, ‘Wonder what happened to Bambic?' Everyone thought I ate myself."

Bambic said he was between 310 and 320 pounds for about 20 years on his 6-foot-3 body frame.

"I was on the death before 40 diet, pre-diabetic and had high blood pressure," he said. "I'd eat a box of Chips Ahoy before going to bed each night. I finally realized if I wanted to see my kids (Christian, 15, and Alyssa, 12, in addition to Alex) grow up I better do something."

He changed his diet, started lifting, running and dropped 60 pounds and then he stepped on the mat about five years ago to start the drive toward 214 pounds this weekend.

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com

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