The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

By Scott Swanson
Of The New Era 

Steve Thorpe poised to break SHHS wins record set by legendary Norm Davis

 

January 3, 2017

STEVE THORPE coaches wrestler Ricky Yunke during a practice session Monday afternoon at Sweet Home HIgh School.

When Steve Thorpe was named head wrestling coach at Sweet Home High School in the fall of 1996, he had some big goals.

One of them, somewhere on the list, was to catch Norm Davis.

Davis, Thorpe’s mentor, both as a wrestler and as an assistant coach, finished his 27 years at Sweet Home with 504 dual meet wins. Following two tournaments last weekend, Thorpe is standing at 502.

The Huskies wrestle Thursday, Jan. 5, at Elmira and then will host Philomath and Junction City at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11.

Expectations are that Thorpe’s team will tie and break the record that night.

“I think the best way to challenge yourself is to set high goals,” Thorpe said as his wrestlers ran wind sprints during a recent early-morning practice. “Norm set high goals.”

Davis took over a program in decline in 1969. Bob Majors had put Sweet Home on the map in the 1950s, winning a state title in 1958. After Majors left for David Douglas, George Meyers won another in 1960, but the Huskies didn’t return to the top of the podium until 1976, under Davis.

“When Norm took over in 1969-70, it was bad,” Thorpe said. “He built it up and won a state title in 1976.

“Norm instilled hard work and discipline. He was the first guy to tell you he wasn’t a technique guy. He was a football player. He only wrestled 11 matches in high school. He came in and used wrestling to teach life.”

South Albany assistant Steve Hummer, who grew up with Thorpe and was on the Sweet Home staff before moving to the Rebels in 2013, also wrestled for Davis.

“He was tough and consistent, always the same,” Hummer said of Davis. “He established a system that worked for him. He didn’t do anything special. He kept it very, very simple.

“High character, a high-value guy, a family man. He would literally take kids into his home. He was a very, very upstanding, good man who taught his wrestlers to be the same.”

Thorpe wrestled for Davis from 1981-86, went on to wrestle for Oregon State University, graduating in 1991.

Hummer said Thorpe’s love for wrestling and ability to accomplish goals led to success at OSU.

“He didn’t have the ability to wrestle at OSU –he wasn’t that good. He loved wrestling so much and worked so hard, he found his way onto the mat there.”

Thorpe played a part in legendary Coach Dale Thomas’ run to the NCAA record for most dual meet wins in a coaching career – 616.

“I wanted to come back to Sweet Home and be a part of this program,” he said.

He learned plenty in the process.

“The greatest thing Norm ever taught me was that this was not about being a wrestler, but about life.

“In 1994 Norm shook his finger at me when I told him we needed to get rid of a wrestler on the team. He told me, ‘This is about building young men.’ I’ve never forgotten that day.”

Surpassing Davis’ win total will honor not only his mentor, but “people who have been part of this program,” he said. It’s been a collective effort over 21 years, he emphasized.

“How many wrestlers were part of those wins or losses? How many times have we won by one point or won by criteria?” he asked, illustrating that many individuals have contributed with clutch performances over the years.

Thorpe is particularly pleased with the number of Sweet Home wrestlers who have moved on to college degrees.

“I’ve sent a lot of kids off to college, getting an education with wrestling as their avenue,” he said.

Two of those, Tomas Rosa and Brock Crocker, wrestled at Southern Oregon State University and have returned as assistants.

Other assistants have moved on to coach elsewhere – Kyle Temple (also an SOSU grad) to Cottage Grove, Shannon Stover to Chiawana, Wash., and Jake Huffman, whose Crook County team has won the last four 4A state titles.

Rosa, Tim Boatright and Steve Schilling have been stalwarts in Sweet Home’s program over the past decade-plus. Boatright retired at the end of the 2012 season, but couldn’t stay away. He’s back this year. Hummer was another top assistant until he moved to South Albany.

“Having that consistency has been incredible. This isn’t just what I’ve done. This is what we have done,” he said, emphasizing the “we.”

It isn’t by accident, he added.

“I’ve had people say, ‘You always have good numbers, good wrestlers,’” he said. “Well, I go after those kids.

“I have people say, ‘You have a good Mat Club.’ I know. I run the Mat Club. People work their tails off to make that happen.”

“We go daily doubles all year along. These kids spend their springs and summers training. It’s not by accident. They want to be good. Being good means something to them.”

“I can’t get over how humbled I am at what these young men and young women are willing to do for this program, the sacrifices they make to lay it on the line and attempt to do great things.”

He said he believes he’s been blessed in his efforts.

“God has a plan. I think that wrestling is in this plan somewhere, but I understand that along the way I’ve experienced God’s grace through it because I’ve made mistakes and He always picks me up.”

Thorpe added that he also has gotten plenty of support from his wife Heather (who’s a fixture at most of the team’s competitions, usually with a camera) and his family – daughter Taylor and Natalie and son Travis, who’s a freshman wrestler this year.

“I have an incredible wife who has lived through it all and loved me through it all, and kids who have put up with all of this. I’m so grateful. I haven’t done this by myself.

“Wrestling is a humble sport. It’s not so much what I’ve accomplished. It’s what we have accomplished.”

Hummer said Thorpe’s success has come from his drive and motivation – and that consuming love for the sport and for kids, which he shares with Davis.

“He’s always willing to learn and do new things. Steve’s love has always been wrestling. Now that he’s a man, he still has that heart and that love.

“Professionally, this is what Steve dreamed of doing as a young man. I’m not surprised at all.”

 
 
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