By Doug Fry
When a program has had as much success as the Clackamas wrestling team has, the season expectations are always high. Coming off their third consecutive National Dual title, the Cougars look to claim a four-peat and add another team title to their resume.
They are off to a good start, with a record of 2-0 in duals after defeating the reinstated Eastern Oregon University Mountaineers on Saturday, Nov. 5, in Randall Hall with a team score of 32-7. The team won eight of ten matches contested, including a win by fall from 174 lb. freshman Colt Doyle in 1:15 over EOU’s Britton Hanson.
This year’s team features a mix of young and experienced talent. Clackamas had a top recruiting class, according to head coach Josh Rhoden.
“David and Kurt, both of those guys will get starts,” said Rhoden. “We had the fifth best recruiting class in non-Division I schools, so Division II, III, NAIA, Junior College, and that’s like 195 schools. So these guys are going to be really good.”
Freshmen David Campbell and Kurt Mode both look to earn themselves a National Junior College Athletic Association individual title this season.
“I have step by step goals written out between here and the end of February,” said Mode. “But my ultimate goal is to be on top of that podium at the end of the year.” The 141-pound freshman won by a 12-3 major decision over the Mountaineers’ Brenden Vladic on Saturday.
Campbell has similar goals for his first year of college wrestling.
“I expect to make some noise for colleges out there, also just be a hard worker,” said Campbell, who wrestled in an exhibition match Saturday. “What I want to do this year is be a national champion.”
He has a plan to make it happen.
“I want to come in wrestling tough,” said Campbell. “I was number one in California and if you’re from California you’re supposed to be tough, act tough, wrestle hard, you know how to wrestle, just keep wrestling, just get it.”
Division I transfers Josh Reyes (Boise State University) and Ralph Tovar (Grand Canyon University) add a competitive edge. Returning All-American Haszell West would like to see the team continue the success with high hopes for another historic year.
“We should definitely get the four-peat in national duals this year and win the national title overall,” West said. “Last year we had the best overall record in Clackamas history for dual meets. I want to just try and keep that going.”
West, who at 197 pounds defeated EOU’s Braeden Phillips 8-3 on Saturday, has some personal goals as well.
“I’m trying to win the national title before I move on,” he said. “I just want to hold myself to a high standard. Don’t ever go on to the mat unprepared, always go out ready, never go out and have a sloppy match.”
Having goals is important, but without a plan, they can get lost during the grind of the season. Rhoden and his staff believe their new outlook, which is to work hard but not overdo training, will lead to a successful year.
“It’s so cliche, but it’s honestly part of what we think is going to help in terms of not making the year seem so long,” said Rhoden. “Wrestling typically seems to be that way, it’s kind of a grind. So trying to say ,’Let’s look at each day like it’s own thing and be as good as we can for today.’ That’s truly what we’ve been preaching a lot of. I’m excited to see how that turns into results.”
West’s experience means he knows how to balance work and play during practice.
“We like to keep it light and be joking but we know how to separate the two,” said West. “We try to have fun with it. I think having fun in wrestling is key, because wrestling is a hard sport. If you’re not having fun with it, a lot of guys are not going to last.”
The Cougars’ next home dual meet will be on Dec. 2 when they host Highline Community College.