WINCHESTER — There will come a time when the Riverhawks hit the mat expecting to accomplish more than getting experience.
But on the whole, that time is not this season.
“It’s a lot different than high school for sure,” Umpqua freshman Kobe Olson said. “It’s a lot tougher in competition. It’s a lot of training and getting used to what a lot of DI guys and actual college wrestlers are used to.
“Actual college guys, some of them are men. They have full-grown beards and I can barely get some chin fuzz.”
Umpqua launched its wrestling program last spring when it hired Kyle Temple to recruit and coach the team. He knew from the start this would be a foundational season, so results like Friday’s against North Idaho College (a 43-12 loss) and Southwestern Oregon (a 42-18 loss) aren’t unexpected.
“It has it’s bumps, but we’ll get better and come back stronger,” freshman Brayden Schultz said. “It’s a big change (from high school), there’s some real tough competition and there’s lots of things I can work on, wrestling-wise and school-wise.”
Schultz matriculated to Umpqua from Douglas High School, where he finished third at the Oregon School Activities Association’s Class 4A state tournament as a senior.
“We’re taking our lumps during the duration of this season,” said Temple, who wrestled collegiately at Southern Oregon and in high school for Steve Thorpe at Sweet Home in the early 2000s. Thorpe also coached Olson, a 2017 SHHS graduate. “We realize this was going to be a learning experience throughout this season.”
UCC has one more home match this season, against Highline College on Jan. 27. The Riverhawks compete at national dual meet champion Clackamas on Sunday.
“I look back at my own college experience, and you have a fifth-year senior in the room — it makes a world of difference in their advice and experience of what they’ve gone through. Next year, these guys will be type of leaders as second-year college wrestlers.”
Temple introduced his team to the UCC Board of Education on Wednesday, the same night the board voted to add men’s and women’s track and field and baseball to college’s offerings. He credits the board’s support as a big plus for the first-year program.
Having wrestling at UCC changed the path of Schultz, who earned an injury default win on Friday at 197 pounds.
“I never had plans to go to college until they offered wrestling,” Schultz said. “I wish I could major in wrestling, but I’m majoring in forestry management. I would have tried to get an entry-level job (if he wasn’t wrestling), but I’m better off with a college education.”
Olson leads the Riverhawks in wins (19), pins and team points this season, according to Temple.
“We’re from the same high school, were caoched by the same guy, I knew what we were getting in terms of fundamentls and style,” Temple said. “That’s not to say other guys don’t have those.”
Shoring up and improving those fundamentals — and breaking bad habits while building confidence — is crucial to the Riverhawks ongoing growth. Schultz is a perfect example for what Temple wants to see happen.
“Brayden, in high school I would say he probably won half of his matches just when he took his T-shirt off and people saw the physical specimen that he is,” Temple said. “He has some fundamentals that we’ve been working on. If you do something 1,000 times, it’s second nature and we have to break some of those habits and get him to adopt new ones.
“When he gets ahold of someone’s legs and commits to a leg attack, he’s going to be a pretty hard guy (to stop). He just has to have some faith in himself and to commit to that, because when he does that, there’s not a lot of guys in the country that are going to stop that shot. He’s struggling a bit with the mental part of his shot being there.”
Temple is looking forward to bringing another 20 or so wrestlers to campus next year. With additional bodies in the wrestling room the expectation is for the Riverhawks to improve even more as they see a wider variety of styles and strengths.
In the meantime, the Riverhawks keep competing with an eye to where they can be in a year.
Sports reporter Aaron Yost can be reached at 541-957-4219 or email [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @aaron_yost.