Story by Doug Fry
Clackamas Community College is home to one of the top junior college wrestling programs in the nation, proven by their record of five straight National Dual Titles and their consistency of finishing near the top at the National Junior College Athletic Association Wrestling Championships each year.
The Cougars recorded another flawless dual season and sent nine wrestlers to the NJCAA championships in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Clackamas began the season with aspirations of claiming another national title, but ultimately came up short. Head coach Josh Rhoden believed his team had the talent to win the title, but something was missing. “Everybody says it’s not luck; it’s this and it’s that; it’s hard work and it’s effort, but we had all those things. We needed luck,” Rhoden said.
Clackamas found themselves as runners-up for the second straight year, despite encountering adversity when 197lb Gage Harrah was forced to medically forfeit due to a concussion the second round of the tournament.
Rhoden addressed his team after learning they would be short a wrestler. “I said you gotta be perfect for the rest of the tournament and that night, we went 7-1 and only lost the one match,” Rhoden said. The next day the team lost two in the semi’s and everyone got into the top six, Rhoden said. “No one found a way to lose.”
The matmen had seven all-Americans and were able to win the matches they needed to keep their lead over Iowa Central and finish second. Clackamas had one champion in 174lb Dylan Reel. The Cougars trailed champions Northeastern Oklahoma A&M by 23 points and finished ahead of Iowa Central by three and a half points.
The Cougars plan to revamp their roster next season with all but one wrestler either graduating or moving on, Rhoden said. The Cougars will be continuing their 38 dual winning streak, with their last loss coming back in 2015 at Oregon State University to the Beavers.
Rhoden has built a culture around wrestling at CCC that will surely have them in the hunt for a national title next year.