K.C. Stokes to study engineering, wrestle for Aggies at UC Davis

Focused on a mechanical engineering degree, K.C. Stokes signed a letter of intent Friday morning to attend the University of California, Davis and wrestle for the Aggies.

Stokes, the son of Jan and Robert Day, will be the valedictorian for the Class of 2002 with a 3.99 GPA.

A wrestler since the age of three, Stokes finished his high school career as the 125 lb. 2A state champion, posted two runners-up in 1999 and 2001 and a third at 135 pounds in 2002.

“I started wrestling when I was three years old because my dad coached the local mat club,” Stokes said. “I didn’t win a match my first two years. I love to wrestle. If I didn’t love it, I couldn’t have done it this long.”

A determined athlete, Stokes said the discipline and dedication he learned through wrestler permeated the other facets of his life.

“Without wrestling, I don’t think I would have had the dedication to be a valedictorian,” Stokes said. “I learned discipline.”

Stokes season records included going 40-1 in 1999, 41-0 in 2000, 35-4 in 2001 and 39-2 in 2002.

He was a four-time district champion, twice in 2A and twice in 3A. Of his 155 wins, 93 were by fall.

In 2001, Stokes was named the Husky outstanding wrestler and scored the most fall and most team points. In 2002 he had the most falls and most take downs.

He was the Cadet Greco and freestyle state runner-up at 132 pounds in 2000.

Stokes said he likes the one-on-one, full contact aspect of wrestling. He said the majority of wrestlers against whom he competed were stronger than him but he focuses on being a technician.

“I rely on one of the most simple and basic moves, the half-nelson,” Stokes said. “If you do it right, it works every time.”

Stokes chose UC Davis because it has a strong engineering program.

“I’ve always like to take things apart and put them back together,” Stokes said.

This summer, Stokes plans to stay around home as much as possible because he know his degree program will take him away for five years.

Stokes joined the Husky wrestling program between his sophomore and junior years. He said the move proved beneficial both on the mat and in the classroom.

“At Central Linn, I had taken about all the classes I could without going to LBCC,” Stokes said. “Here, there were more higher level classes and it worked out great. I really like Sweet Home and I’m glad we moved here.”

When he isn’t wrestling, Stokes enjoys helping his dad on their Willamette Speedway race car.

“We put things together and my dad does the driving,” Stokes said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Husky Coach Steve Thorpe said Stokes was an excellent addition to the mat program and to the school.

“K.C. was like a kid in a candy store when he came into our program,” Coach Thorpe said. “He finally had a tough bunch of workout partners that he couldn’t beat every night. It forced him to become a better wrestler.”

Coach Thorpe said Stokes is focused on a quality education.

“He has a stubborn streak and is persistent,” Coach Thorpe said. “K.C. is a well-rounded young man.”

The UC Aggies are coached by former University of Iowa wrestler and coach Lennie Zalesky. During his wrestling career, the powerhouse Hawkeyes posted a 73-2-1 record. Zalesky twice finished as runner-up in the 142 pound class at the NCAA championships. He earned three Big 10 titles and was team MVP in 1982. He has earned silver medals in the 1983 Pam American Games and 1984 World Cup competition.

Zalesky has since had a successful coaching career in Indiana and Alaska where he was named coach of the year in 1996.