Travis Thorpe to wrestle at SOU

Scott Swanson

In a private ceremony held in his back yard on the evening of Tuesday, May 5, Travis Thorpe signed to wrestle for Southern Oregon University.

“He’s not the first wrestler we’ve sent (to SOU),” his father and coach Steve Thorpe said. “In fact, I think we’ve been sending people to wrestle there since 2001. He continues on with quite a legacy of wrestlers that have been there.”

Two coaches in the Sweet Home wrestling program, assistants Tomas Rosa and Brock Crocker, are both graduates of the Raiders program, under Coach Mike Ritchey, who announced his retirement in March after 25 seasons as the Raiders’ head men’s wrestling coach. Joel Gibson, who completed his first season as the Raiders’ head women’s wrestling coach in 2019-20, will additionally oversee the men’s program in 2020-21. Gibson coached Sweet Home alum Marissa Kurtz, a freshman, last season.

“We feel good sending him down to Southern Oregon,” Steve Thorpe said, noting that Sweet Home alum Tyler Cowger, who starred as a four-time All-American for Ritchey at SOU, is coaching just down the road at Phoenix High School.

“As a coach, I’m confident he’s going to be taken care of. As a parent, I’m confident he’s going to be taken care of.”

A national search to replace Ritchey, SOU’s head men’s coach of 25 years, had been in progress before the COVID-19 disruption prompted SOU to enact a hiring freeze. The search will be revisited next year.

In a pair of coinciding moves, Bob Bergen was elevated to head women’s assistant coach and Tucker Van Matre to head men’s assistant. Both served on Gibson’s women’s staff last season.

Travis Thorpe said his familiarity with the people in the program was one of the draws that prompted him to decide on SOU.

“Just felt like it was the best spot for me, financially and personally,” he said.

“I love the campus and I love where I’ll be at, the people who will be surrounding me. I know Mike; he’ll still be part of program.”

Thorpe finished his senior season with his second straight state championship and a school record of 202 wins, outpacing Tyler Schilling, who was present in the small crowd of family and friends who witnessed the signing ceremony.

He said he also considered Oregon State University and Clackamas Community College.

“It was pretty tough, choosing between them,” he said. “I talked to coaches, called them. (SOU) just made sense, I guess. I think this is what’s best for me.”

Thorpe said he plans to major in environmental science, and “probably do some criminology on top of that” to prepare for a career as a game warden or state trooper.

Thorpe joins swimmer Megan Hager and decathlete Casey Tow as athletes signing letters of intent to compete at the college level in this coronavirus-shortened school sports year.

I am excited for Travis,” said Athletic Director Nate Tyler. “Any time anyone signs a letter of intent, it’s very, very special.

“You guys all know the kind of dedication that Travis has put in, the kind of person he is. He’s going to be a great role model and representation of Sweet Home down in Southern Oregon.

Steve Thorpe said they gave a lot of thought to the decision, which involved more than wrestling.

“His wrestling was never so he could get a scholarship or anything like that,” he said. “The thing about Travis is he has loved to compete, how versatile he is as a three-sport athlete, now going to go and specialize.”

He quoted former University of Oregon Coach Chuck Kearney, now at the University of St. Mary in Leavenworth, Kan., who said, “Travis is not just a wrestler. There’s so much more that makes Travis who he is.”

Said Steve Thorpe: “He’s going to get to expand on who he is.”