Aime Mukiza of DM North-Hoover finished off his wrestling career as a 4X state qualifier/2X Placer. He placed 4th at state this year, which was a nice step up from finishing 8th last year.
In the past couple years, while conducting interviews with wrestlers at conference, districts, state, wherever, I’d be lying through my teeth if I were to say that I didn’t develop some favorites after getting to know them. If a wrestling media guy ever says they DON’T have their favorites after they get to know some of these guys a bit, they are either lying through their teeth or are better people than me. With that said, Aime Mukiza was one of my favorites I ever interviewed, without a doubt.
Aime wrestled for Des Moines North-Hoover. You wouldn’t believe the excitement and enthusiasm you are greeted with when you ask to interview a guy from a squad like DM North-Hoover that doesn’t regularly receive much media attention. They are always so appreciative of it. I have a soft spot for squads like these. When you are down on the floor and you see some of these squads hanging around in the area, you catch vibes real quickly in terms of which guys are used to receiving media attention, which guys like the attention, which guys would rather avoid it, etc. And it’s natural for a media person to gravitate towards some of these cats who seem to like opening up to the media, for they are easier to approach when you know your inquiries to interview them are wanted. The squads that are sometimes the most easy to forget are the ones guys who are never approached by the media and are routinely disregarded at tournaments. When you see guys from these squads down on the floor, they tend to stick to themselves at times and may not acknowledge the presence of the media, for they are not expecting to be approached by them anyways. This was how the squad from DM North-Hoover came off to me the first time I met them in 2019 at the CIML Tournament. They were huddled in their own little crew in their designated area and didn’t seem to pay much attention to the stereotypical media guy walking around with a notepad that I was that day. My rule of thumb before I decide to cover ANY wrestling event is that I do my homework on every guy from every squad who will be wrestling at whatever event I am at and will try to get interviews from AT LEAST 1-2 guys from EVERY squad, regardless if they have an above average guy in their lineup or not. With that said, I’ll never forget how surprised the two guys I interviewed from DM North-Hoover that day were when I approached them and how much it meant to them to not only be acknowledged, but that I knew exactly who they were and the great things they had accomplished leading to the tournament that season and in years prior. It was clarity to them that all of their hard work and the strides they made from it did not go unnoticed. It was clear that it meant the world to them.
The two guys I chose to interview were Senior (2019) Mike Moore who was a 2X state qualifier and Aime Mukiza, a Sophomore who was a returning qualifier at the time. Both guys treated me with the utmost respect and it was clear almost immediately that Moore was a good leader on that squad and looked out for Aime like he was a little brother. Mike was interviewed first and afterwards, he asked me if he could stand near Aime when he was being interviewed and I thought that was incredibly impressive of him, for it told me one of two things (if not both): 1.) That Mike wanted to ensure Aime was in his comfort zone and around people he trusted when the interview took place and 2.) That the interview was conducted in professional fashion and whatever was reported, would be done so accurately, for two guys were present for the interview opposed to one. This was so impressive to me because not only did it show Mike’s positive effect on Aime as a leader, but it was also a smart move, for let’s face it… the media in general can be dishonest and not have the best of intentions at times and they have the capability to slander a person’s reputation if they have some sort of ax to grind. This was not going happen to Mike Moore or any of his wrestling family while on his watch and I just thought it was one of the most commendable things I noticed from anyone I interviewed that whole season.
Former DM North-Hoover coach, Cody Swim, who was a 4X placer for Indianola (placed 3-2-3-3) and a 2X National Qualifier for Grand View had this to say about the DM North-Hoover squad:
CODY SWIM: “Coaching at DM North-Hoover was a life changing experience I’ll never regret. Those are some of the best kids I’ve ever met. They all have a story and have overcame a lot.”
Aime’s life story is different than any wrestler I’ve ever met. And he was gracious enough to fill us all in on his amazing life/wrestling journey!
(Photo cred to Cam Kramer from IAwrestle).
Where were you from before moving to Des Moines? What was the situation there?
Before Des Moines, I lived in North Carolina for 6 months. The reason we came to Iowa was because the sponsor family that was assigned to us did very little for us and my parents weren’t able to get a job so we were basically living by a friend, which is not a way anyone wants to live. But prior to North Carolina, we lived in a refugee camp in Tanzania.
Was the atmosphere you were raised in the first 5 years of your life a dangerous one? Do you remember any of it?
I remember, and no it was not dangerous. The refugee camp was really safe, and I lived rather a comfortable life as a child. My dad was a respected teacher and mechanic in the area and made good money from it. I never had to deal with the hardship of hunger or worry about where ill sleep or how ill get by as a child in Africa. But of course, that is what I remember and might not be 100% what occurred, I could’ve been too naïve to notice any real danger around me.
Has your multicultural experiences shaped you in ways people may not know about?
I think so. Me being an immigrant has meant that America is a land of opportunities, and I’ve been taught to take those opportunities, the biggest one being education. I’ve challenged myself and have taken advanced or AP classes because they are difficult and will make me a better student in the long run whether I pass or fail because I’ll have an idea of what to expect out of the classes I will be taking in college. Along with that, anyone that actually knows me knows how busy I am, I usually tend to take on more than I can handle because of everything being an opportunity. I see sports as an opportunity to stay healthy, learn a new skill, be apart of something greater than myself, and a chance to connect. I will join clubs such as breakdancing because I will get the chance to connect to others. I have joined C.O.R.E. (Community Of Racial Equity) which is a student led program that evolves around creating an equal and welcoming environment for all students. To raise the plain of minoritized individuals and make them equal to the majority. I’m involved in band. Concert band, marching band, and wind ensemble. Science Bound, which is an Iowa State University scholarship program for blacks and Latin community students. Those who participate and graduate in the program and commit to ISU are rewarded a full tuition scholarship.
Long story short, I am involved in all of these activities and more because I know that doors aren’t open forever and you may never know about the connection you make today and how helpful they can become to you tomorrow when you most need them. The last thing I want on my mind is regret because I never did something that I wish I did. Because I’ll never regret doing something trying something new, but I will regret giving up and avoiding an opportunity.
How did you get started with wrestling? Did you like it immediately?
Started 7th grade year, did horrible, but I fell in love with it for some reason. 2 weeks into the middle school season I got a concussion and was forced to sit out for the rest of the season, but I attended every practice and meet to support and continue to learn even though I couldn’t wrestle… and mostly because I didn’t want to go home and do nothing for another month.
What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?
I’ve never done club, I have only wrestle in school seasons. That means since my first day of wrestling I have only wrestled 2 weeks in 7th grade, a month and a half 8th grade, 3 months for my freshmen, sophomore, and junior years, and another month and a half for my senior year. That’s a total of 1 year and 2 weeks of legit practice of wrestling.
I started wrestling at Harding Middle school and continued at North High for the North-Hoover team.
Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do? If not, how do they feel about it?
I have older cousins who have wrestled, but they aren’t much older, the oldest being 22. They were not as successful as I have, but I didn’t know they wrestled until I was a freshman/ sophomore in high school. I also have a younger brother who is planning on wrestling his high school years and has wrestled his 7th grade year. Currently in 8th grade right now.
What were your youth results? Any rivals there?
8th grade year was a solid year I went almost undefeated with 20 + wins in the metro and I had 4 losses to 4 Southeast Polk kids in one night at a middle school meet at Roosevelt High school. But I do not remember them. (middle school season only).
What was your record in HS?
90-40 total of 130 matches
How did you place at state every year?
Fr, So. SQ but DNP
Jr. 8th @ 113
Sr. 4th @ 113
What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?
Adversity I have come across a lot comes across with referees where I FEEL that they are deliberately miscalling things or not giving me my calls just because of my name, school, and background. I’ve seen it in basketball and football games against my team.
Did the adversity you faced growing up help you for wrestling?
Very. Coming across adversity every day just becomes normal, almost like you build an immunity to it.
How would you describe your wrestling style?
My style is very Unorthodox. Because I don’t really have a style, I know very little compared to the guys I compete against at state. I don’t even know how to tilt properly. I have the basics, determination, speed, and the ability to be coached. I just haven’t had the time to actually master the art of wrestling, which I plan to do in college.
How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?
Not very many. I have never lost to a guy that I beat the first time we meat, but I know I have beaten guys whom I’ve lost to the first time we met, but I don’t remember names because I never cared to know who my opponent was. If they weren’t a “big” name at the weight, I probably didn’t know who I was wrestling up against.
Who was your most influential coach?
Trevor Hixon. Coach Hixon was my 8th grade coach, was there for the actual start of my career to this point. Has helped me tremendously over the years.
Was your team competitive in HS/college?
Not really. We’ve never really had a team while I was at north. This year (my Sr. year) was the first time we’ve had more than 6 student finish out the season.
Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?
I didn’t look up to anyone until sophomore year. I know very little about the history of wrestling and sophomore year was the first time I actually started introducing myself to wrestling outside of high school and I saw Jordan Burroughs and he became my idol because of how similar I move to him and because he was the very first and current black wrestler I saw. I even called myself the son of Burroughs.
Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?
I’m going to go the current rout and say Drake Ayala. He is going to make noise in college.
Are there any wrestlers you’ve seen, past or present that you would compare your style to?
Jordan Burroughs, a bit of James Green, and a bit of John Meeks
How would you describe the DM North-Hoover squads you were part of?
Family. The guys that stuck it out to the end were like family to me. They want to be there just as much as I want to, and we work hard but have fun at the same time.
Did you ever feel like DM North-Hoover was looked past or not given enough credit?
100% but what doesn’t help is knowing that DMPS has become more about football and basketball only. Not a lot of people care about wrestling in Des Moines.
What are some interesting hypothetical matchups between guys from different eras that you would have been interesting in seeing?
I want to see Dan Gable go at it against Cael Sanderson
Who are some Iowa HS wrestling guys from your era that you have an immense amount of respect for?
Lane Cowell of Fort Dodge. He has beat me every time we have wrestled, but he reminds me so much of myself. He moves like me, is strong, quick, smart, and I honestly believe he could be one of the very best. Now, I don’t know him nor his story but from how I see it, I just don’t think he is into it as much as I think he could be. He has the resources and the athleticism, but I feel he lacks the derive that I have. I believe with no doubt he could be a mean machine. But I respect how hard he goes on the mat and just attacks.
Who are your favorite current wrestlers?
Jordan Burroughs, James Green, Daton Fix, Nick Suriano, and Gable Steveson
What music do you listen to?
What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
This year (Sr. season) at the Perry Tournament. I wrestled 120 4 days after coming off of COVID, still recovering of course, haven’t been on a mat competitively for folk style since state 2020, almost 11 months. And for some reason I expected to perform at my peek performance, which did not occur. I got beat out of the tournament and completely underperformed what I would’ve been capable of had I had a full season and had I not caught COVID. I was really upset because I knew I was better than that performance, but I felt like I couldn’t do anything about it.
If you could go back and change one thing about your HS wrestling career, what would it be?
I would’ve pushed and found a way to wrestle all year round from the start.
Where do you feel your era stacks up to other Iowa HS wrestling eras?
Were not the best era but, Id say average or “normal”. I don’t really know how to put it.
What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?
Accomplishing 4th place at the state tournament this year with less than half a season.
Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school?
Lane, Trevor Anderson, Drake Ayala, and more of course but my mind is drawing blank.
Do you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?
How would the guys from the past woulda stack up against the guys today?
I think competition was a bit tougher back then compared to now. We have too many constant rule changes.
What other sports did you play?
Football, Cross country, Soccer, and Baseball. Breakdance if it counts.
What are your favorite sports teams?
Funny thing… I don’t really watch sports.
What are your hobbies other than wrestling?
Working out, CrossFit, running, and sleeping.
How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport and help others pick it up?
I feel great, I means I am helping someone else feel as good as I did when I first learned this art.
How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?
I has allowed me to feel brave, strong, and independent. I know I am capable of tackling anything in life if I can last 6 minutes on a mat fighting a battle against another human. What doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger.
Are you still going to be involved with wrestling?
For the rest of my life, until I retire.
Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
It doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you are determined to learn and allow yourself to be coachable.
And recording matches, and watching your film over and over while comparing yourself to guys who are considered great seeing the mistakes you are making helped me fix what I need fixed and pick up things that helped me in matches.
I sucked as a freshman, I couldn’t tell you how I made it to state, but over the years I have allowed my coaches to coach me and break down film with me until I understood what I did wrong, then I worked on it.
Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with?
Asante Gordon, my partner freshmen year, a bit of Junior year, and Senior year. He has so much potential but never got the chance to shine. Had a complete season with me freshman year, was pulled from wrestling sophomore year, had a late start and an early end to his season junior year do to an injury, and had a late start this year do to COVID. But he has been a great reason for the wrestler I am today, as he has always supported me, hyped me up, and wrestled me in the room to make me better and make me work.
And I want to shout out Michael Moore, he kicked my butt everyday sophomore year since I didn’t have anyone else near my weight to wrestle, so I had to practice with a 132 pounder as a 106 lbs wrestler. But, that led me to getting so much better from freshman year to sophomore year. I jumped to many levels. And that gave me so much more derive and determination that lead me to get even better. And he has been in my corner since he met me. Told me I was a better wrestler than him and that I will do better than he ever did. I believed it and achieved it.
Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.
Fun fact… I was voted best shoulder to cry on from my class of 2021! Another fun fact… I stood on the podium at state this year with Mr. Incredible in my hands.. you can see him in a zoomed picture. I think I made history in that sense, I don’t think that has ever been done before, but I may be wrong.