The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

By Scott Swanson
Of The New Era 

Former Husky Kyle Temple takes on new challenge: UCC wrestling


July 25, 2017

Kyle Temple has always been active in summer wrestling, most recently as director of the Oregon Wrestling Association’s Juniors program.

But when he takes young people to tournaments now, he’s got more of a stake in their success than he did last year at this time.

Temple is looking for talent because he’s stocking the roster at Umpqua Community College, 45 minutes south of his home in Cottage Grove, where he’s head coach of the brand new program UCC is starting in the fall.

Temple was one of many coaches present at the Santiam Wrestling Camp earlier this month. He left shortly after for Fargo, N.D., with Oregon’s Junior and Cadet teams for the national tournament.

As recently as last Christmas, college wrestling wasn’t really on Temple’s radar.

He had wrestled himself at Southern Oregon University after graduating from Sweet Home High School in 2003. He’d coached at various high schools – Sweet Home, Sprague, Stayton and Cottage Grove after graduating from SOU in 2008 and then earning a master’s degree from Western Oregon.

“I was ready to finish everything out there and be a lifelong “Grover” when this golden opportunity came along,” Temple said.

Browsing on the popular wrestling website during the middle of the Cottage Grove wrestling season last January, Temple saw an announcement that UCC was starting a wrestling program and was about to launch a search for a coach.

He said the college has been seeing decreasing enrollment. New President Debra Thatcher, from SUNY-Cobleskill, and Athletic Director Craig Jackson, a former Central Linn and Linn-Benton Community College athlete, got together and came up with a strategy, Temple said.

“They said, ‘How can we get more students, to increase our enrollment numbers,’” They decided on athletics.

UCC already had men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball, but it has announced it is adding men’s and women’s wrestling, men’s and women’s cross-country, and men’s and women’s obstacle racing – the first college in the nation to offer that sport, which will be similar to “tough mudder” or Spartan-type events.

“They said, ‘You need something tangible and visible for the public, that we can attract people to. So they really put a conscious effort into athletics for next year.”

Seeing the announcement, Temple said he thought, “Umpqua Community College, that’s just 30 minutes from my house.”

He said he called Sweet Home Coach Steve Thorpe and some other coaches for advice, as he decided to pursue the opportunity.

“I didn’t know what a realistic shot for me getting a job like this, but I was interested in going through the process.”

He applied for the job when it finally officially opened, right before Spring Break.

“I turned in the application on Friday, got the interview on Monday and did the interview later that week,” Temple said. On Friday, as Spring Break began, “I’m walking out of school and the AD called me and offered me the job.”

He accepted after thinking about it all weekend, and “just instantaneously went into the whole recruiting process” just as Spring Break kicked off.

“It was a whole new experience for me but it’s been a lot of fun.”

He also had to start building a program, raising funds and collecting equipment, as well as finding wrestlers.

“It’s been a fun process,” Temple said. “The school has been very supportive. Wrestling in Douglas County is huge, with Roseburg High School being one of our top powers and Glide High School is right there too. Douglas County itself is really wrestling-oriented.”

Restore College Wrestling, a division of the Oregon Wrestling Association, which aims to restore lost college programs and support ongoing ones, bought UCC a mat for competitions and Temple was able to arrange to buy Oregon State University’s competition mat, which had been retired, along with OSU’s former wall mats for its wrestling room. A wrestling mat, he said, can run between $10,000 and $15,000, depending on durability and the brand.

“We’re in it for $200 for wrestling mats,” he said.

Temple has arranged with Adidas to provide a set of initial uniforms “to get us off the ground.”

“Right now, the school is only in this about $1,000 to start a program, for supplies. We’re spending a little money for a scale.”

Recruiting is going to be a learning process, he said.

He already has 13 wrestlers currently listed on his Riverhawks roster, including three from Sweet Home: 2016 grad Alex Armstrong, along with two-time state champion and triple crown winner Kobe Olson and Jake Porter, a state finalist. The others are Jose Candelas of Nyssa, Josh Hammers of Mazama, Hayden Juliano of South Salem, Wyatt Kessler of McNary, Grant Laiblin of Harrisburg – who has also signed to run cross-country, Matt McDowell of Roseburg, Dallas O’Bryan of Newberg, Christian Perez of Henley, Levi Summers of Stayton and Ian Thomas of Roseburg.

“What was interesting about going through the recruiting process was there were kids who had already visited the school, who had filled out prospective athlete questionnaires, so I kind of had a list of kids right away to start contacting right away,” Temple said.

He also had plenty of contacts from being junior director of the Oregon Wrestling Association.

“I’ve taken lots of kids all over the U.S., so I had some connections.”

His goal is to have a roster of 30 wrestlers. “The reality is we’re probably looking at having 24.”

UCC will join Region 18 of the National Junior College Athletic Association, which will be a plus for the other four schools that offer wrestling – Clackamas, Southwestern Oregon, North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene and Highland Community College in Des Moines, Wash. – because the region will now get an additional qualifier for the national tournament.

Clackamas, which has been a national powerhouse and has won five straight national dual meet titles, includes one of Temple’s college roommates on the coaching staff, he said.

Josh Rhoden, the Clackamas head coach, did a mock interview over the phone before Temple interviewed for the job, “just to help me out because he said ‘I want to get somebody in here who knows wrestling. I want to build a relationship.”

“It’s a benefit for everybody in the league. It’s a really cool deal,” Temple said.

Mike Ritchey, head coach at SOU, said he believes his former wrestler will be a good fit for UCC.

“That’s awesome. I have faith in Kyle’s abilities,” he said. “Kyle will teach them good habits, good training habits. He’ll get some kids that want to go Division I, which is what he has to do to be successful. If you’re going to be a successful junior college coach, you need connections with D-I and have them place kids at your school.

“I’ve already started that process, sending guys that way.”

Thorpe said Temple has a big job on his hands, restarting a program “from scratch, without history and expectations.

“He’s got a huge responsibility to bring it back with integrity and success, get those kids their education. That’s what’s important at that level.”

Thorpe, who heads the Oregon Wrestling Association, said Temple has done well as director of the organization’s junior program.

He said he’s looking forward to having “somebody in that position that I can work with, somebody who’s easy to reach,

“It’ll be nice to have a pipeline, somewhere else to send Sweet Home wrestlers.”

Temple knows his new gig will be different than being a high school coach. For one thing, he will be teaching at Cottage Grove, then commuting 35 minutes to UCC each afternoon, holding his workouts following the women’s practice. Eventually, he said, since he has a master’s degree, it’s possible he could get on the faculty at the college.

“It’ll be totally different than working with freshmen in high school,” he said. “But I think this is a great opportunity.”


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