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An LDS mission wasn't the original plan for All-American wrestler who threw Mormon Night first pitch

ROUND ROCK, Texas — Elder Dusty Hone, a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, threw out the first pitch at the Round Rock Express vs. the Omaha Storm Chasers minor league baseball game Tuesday, April 18, 2017, at Dell Diamond for the home team’s annual Mormon Night.

“Nicely done,” the announcer said as the southpaw threw the ball a little high but made it over home plate to the pitcher. A choir of missionaries from the Texas San Antonio Mission then sang the national anthem.

Hone, who serves Spanish-speaking in the Texas San Antonio Mission, competed in the Little League World Series at age 12 and 14, but stopped playing baseball when he started high school so he could focus on wrestling.

“I went to three national tournaments my senior year — one in Iowa where I took second, one in Virginia Beach where I took first, and one in Reno, where I won as well,” Hone said.

The four-time All-American wrestler, from a fourth-generation ranching family in Cedar City, Utah, gained attention from Oklahoma State University’s wrestling coaches.

After visiting the campus, Hone told recruiters, “I’m not going on a mission. You don’t have to worry about that.”

He signed with them and became an OSU Cowboy beginning the summer term in 2014.

“I come from a family that is less active; inactive. We rarely went to church,” Hone said.

However, plans can change.

“Right when I hit college, I just started going to church,” Hone said.

As newcomers to Stillwater, Oklahoma, he made friends with Kirk and Patricia Anderson, a couple from Provo, who were newly called as full-time LDS Church Education System missionaries to teach Institute of Religion classes for students at OSU.

“Dusty was modest and humble about his accomplishments, but we came to find out that he was an outstanding wrestler,” Patricia Anderson said. “He had a thirst for knowledge of the gospel and came prepared to ask a lot of good questions. Over time, we watched his faith grow stronger and saw his testimony flourish.”

Hone shared how attending Institute helped him.

“I read the Book of Mormon for the first time,” he said. He also watched general conference for the first time. It was then that he felt the distinct impression that he should go on a mission. “I got on my knees and prayed about all this, and I found my answer,” he said.

OSU wrestling coach and two-time Olympic gold medalist John Smith supported Hone’s decision, but told him he should wait one more year, and that his second year of college is where he would really develop skills to become a better wrestler.

While his university coach was on board, Hone’s father took some convincing. Chris Hone had coached his son, Dusty, in wrestling practically his whole life, including through high school. Hone’s father questioned if his son’s decision to serve would jeopardize the scholarship that Dusty had worked to receive, Dusty Hone said. Chris, father of three sons, Zach, Cody, and Dusty, came around very quickly to the idea and became supportive.

“I had to wait a year and a half, anticipating being here on my mission,” Dusty Hone said. “I received a couple of callings in the church. The first one was the second counselor the Sunday School presidency, then I became the president the next year. I had no idea what I was doing. I don’t have much church background, but I guess the Lord trusts me with that.”

“This kid is so easy to love, impossible not to love,” John Valletta, Institute director, said of Hone.

Patricia Anderson said, “He often brought his non-member wrestling friends to Institute class, to Soup Tuesday and family home evening activities. He was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ and openly shared his testimony with those around him.”

His mission call arrived in Oklahoma while he was in New York for the college national wrestling finals, supporting his team. Valletta helped retrieve the mail with his mission call, opened it and then sent a text message with the news. With his parents by his side in Central Park, Hone was able to share with them where he would spend the next two years of his life, but not until they had explored the grounds of the Manhattan New York Temple together.

Ten months into his mission, the most important thing that Hone has learned is that “God can work through weak people to do amazing things and change other people’s lives.”

Hone’s mother, JoNell said of her son, “He’s always been an inspiration to a lot of people.”

Hone currently serves in San Antonio with Elder Spencer Webb, from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Hone says the two things he loves most about Texas are the people and the food. Hone plans to return to Oklahoma State University after his mission.

Kelly J. Larson is a coordinating council media specialist for the Austin area of the North America Southwest Region. She studied journalism at Brigham Young University and the University of Colorado Boulder.