Camp helps wrestlers learn winning ways

Daniel Ramirez, 15, a first-year wrestler from Pasco, Wash. with big aspirations, was in Sweet Home last week along with a little over 200 other boys to make those dreams come true.

“Like everybody else here, I’m looking for a state title,” Ramirez said as he took a break from an intensive workout in Husky Gym.

He was in Sweet Home for the Santiam Intensive Wrestling Camp, which drew athletes and coaches from all over Oregon, from Hawaii and from Canada, as well as Washington.

This was the first year that the camp has drawn wrestlers from other states, Camp Director Steve Thorpe said, though foreign visitors are regular participants. Ages ranged from elementary school grapplers to high school graduates looking for a tune-up before heading off to the nationals.

“This camp gives the elite wrestler a chance to be an All-American or state champion,” Thorpe said. “It gives the first-year wrestler the opportunity varsity wrestler or a state qualifier.”

He said the camp’s quality has progressed over the years and it makes a difference for the wrestlers.

“This isn’t a normal camp,” Thorpe said. “This is a training camp, where wrestlers learn how to get better, to get mentally tougher.”

This year’s camp included wrestlers from 4A state champion Sweet Home, 5A champ Hermiston and 6A team titlist Newberg, in addition to other strong programs such as Roseburg and Tillamook.

Former longtime South Albany Coach Lamont Simons, who now assists his son Mike at Thurston, said he likes the camp because it offers variation.

In one evening session last week, Jay Covington of Pasco was demonstrating foundational moves in the Activity Gym for wrestlers, while in the Main Gym Thorpe was putting other wrestlers through a grueling workout that included the “relentless drill,” sort of a tag-team wrestling drill, and isometric exercises. In the Wrestling Room Oregon State University Assistant Coach Troy Steiner was teaching advanced techniques to National Team members.

“I’ve coached for 35 years and I’ve been to a lot of camps,” Simons said. “It’s the variation. It’s good.”

Ramirez, who wrestles for former Sweet Home assistant Shannon Stover at Pasco, said he had played soccer for much of his life before trying wrestling this year. He finished 5th in the Washington Greco championships and was seventh in freestyle.

“He’s a guy who’s worked his tail off,” said Stover, who’s predicting big things for the youngster.

Ramirez said wrestling is a “great sport.”

“What’s really fun about wrestling is more of the people actually want to work hard,” he said. “It will make me successful in life

Tyler Hayashi, 16, was one of four wrestlers who attended on their own from Roosevelt High School in Honolulu, Hawaii.

“Basically, the four of us came to learn better techniques, to learn a different level of wrestling,” Hayashi said. “I think people here are more committed. (For some,) wrestling is their only sport.”

Hayashi said he plays football and competes on the school judo team in the spring when he isn’t wrestling.

Thorpe said the camp benefits coaches as well as wrestlers.

“This camp is not just what the athletes get from it,” he said. “It’s what myself and the other coaches get from it.”

He said that after his team won a second state title in three years, he experienced “a little bit of a let-down.”

“I’m finding that spark when I find that level of athlete that’s here and see how much better your Sweet Home kid gets in five days. It rejuvenates you.

“People come to this camp, sleep on the mats in hot weather, because it benefits them.”