During the summer going into the 4th grade, my Mom decided she would take my younger brother Brett and I to the Victory Gym to learn how to lift weights from Ralph Kroger. The catalyst for this trip over to the gym was my brother and I’s “boredom.” Mom and Dad (Dwight & Bonnie Varce) had two businesses on Main Street in Cherokee, this meant Brett and I would be at the shops during the summer “bored.” To say the least, this trip over to see Ralph at Victory Gym changed my life forever. I immediately fell in love with the strength training Ralph instructed me on.
Like most of us growing up in a small Midwest town, sports were my everything. I wanted to be a professional football player, basketball player, runner, swimmer, and make it to the Olympics too! I knew that if I lifted weights, I would be a better athlete (Ralph told me so) and fulfill my athletic dreams! And so, from the 4th grade up to this present day, strength training has been an important part of my life. In fact, those early years lifting weights at Victory Gym had such an impact on my life, as I entered high school here in Cherokee, and began to think about what I wanted to study in college, it was really a no brainer, Exercise Science of course! With that degree, I could become a personal trainer and eventually own my own gym! This was the scope of my entire thought process in my teen years, become a personal trainer, and own a gym!
As you read this, many of you know, life doesn’t always go “as planned.”
After graduating from Washington High School in 2006, I did in fact go off to college and graduated in 2010 with my Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science from the University of Sioux Falls, but during college, I reconnected with my faith, and this altered those teen dreams of becoming a personal trainer and a gym owner.
After graduating from USF, I spent the majority of my 20’s in ministry in South Dakota and Detroit working with underprivileged youth in a variety of settings. It was an amazing time of my life that taught me so many valuable lessons I needed to learn! Although I didn’t spend my post-college years pursuing personal training and owning a gym, lifting weights still remained present during those years. In 2016, I competed in my first drug-free bodybuilding competition, once again, following in the footsteps of my childhood mentor, Ralph.
In July of 2017, the opportunity presented itself for me to move to Colorado Springs. Being the free-spirited wanderlust that I am, I jumped on the opportunity! The last 2.5 years, I have been living between Colorado Springs and Denver, spending time as a PE teacher (makes sense, right?), personal trainer, and working in the fitness department of a YMCA. During my time in Colorado, I also started my own podcast called the, “127 Fit Podcast,” in which I do in person interviews with fitness experts, health enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, and other passionate individuals. The podcast has been a top 50 on iTunes and allowed me to connect with many beautiful human beings, who through their stories shared on my podcast, have once again, taught me so much!
I cannot tell my story without mentioning another man who helped mold me into the individual I am today through our time together at Victory Gym, Dave Lawrence. Dave served in Vietnam with the United States Marines. He was a world champion powerlifter and the individual who taught me how to powerlift. Dave was a no non-sense guy who also poured his heart and soul into me during my youth.
Ironically, in 2019, both Ralph and Dave passed away. This began my process of wanting to carry on the legacies of the two men who had the greatest impact on my childhood. Through many different unique situations, circumstances, and happenings, earlier this year, I found myself back in Iowa and back in Cherokee.
To keep a long story as short as possible, the opportunity arose for me to purchase Victory Gym. Through much prayer, thought, and consideration, it only made sense to me to take over the gym that had so much impact on my life during my younger years! Not only would I be able to fulfill a life-long dream of owning my own gym, along with carrying on the legacies of Ralph & Dave, but most importantly, I would have the opportunity to be that man who positively impacts a young child’s life as Ralph did for me.
As of September 1, I became the new owner of Victory Gym. It’s still a bit surreal for me to say that, but I’m sure it will sink in at some point. Through all of my life travels, adventures, explorations, and wanderings, I’ve found myself where it all started, in a small gym, in a small town in Northwest Iowa. Cherokee is home. Cherokee will always be home. Cherokee is where the dream began and Cherokee is where the dream will be fulfilled. I love you all, see you in the gym.