Wrestling award takes local Coach Steve Thorpe around world

Scott Swanson

Sweet Home wrestling coach Steve Thorpe is back from Budapest, Hungary, with a lot of memories and an appreciation for the sport that took him there, he says.

Thorpe, who also serves as chair of the Oregon Wrestling Association, has gained increasingly influence in the sport, most recently being selected, earlier this year, by his fellow state chairpersons as the Chairperson of the National Council of State Chairpersons.

In that role, Thorpe will now serve as a member of USA Wrestling’s Board of Directors and on the Executive Committee of the organization.

In October Thorpe was named the 2018 USA Wrestling President’s Award Winner, selected by USA Wrestling’s President Bruce Baumgartner, the most decorated American wrestler in history.

That was the reason for his trip to Hungary Oct. 18-25, where he got to hang out with some of the prominent names in the sport.

“To get to travel to another country to watch the world championships, that could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Thorpe said – “although I hope not.”

He said he traveled with USA Wrestling staffer Derek Sikora and got to watch all of the men’s and the first half of the women’s freestyle championships.

“I didn’t stay for the Greco,” Thorpe said. “I was gone almost eight days. I couldn’t be gone any longer.”

He said although he had fun, “I don’t just go there to vacation. Of course, I’m excited about the incredible experience. But I go to these things to learn. That’s what I did there.”

He said he got to visit with old friends from the wrestling community, including Baumgartner and Steve Fraser, both multiple gold medalists for the U.S. He said he also enjoyed visiting with the families of the American wrestlers competing in the event.

“Every day I was around Olympic gold medalists and world champions. Growing up , some of these guys were my heroes. I’ve shared time with them; we’ve become friends.

“The experience I had was irreplaceable.”

The United States came away with a second-place team finish (behind Russia) in the men’s freestyle competition, with three individual world champions – Kyle Dake at 79 kilograms, David Taylor at 86 and J’den Cox at 92.

Adeline Gray, at 76 kilos, was the only individual champion for the women, who placed third behind Japan and China in the team competition.

The Americans had no individual champions in Greco, which was dominated by Russia.

Thorpe said he’s always looking for ideas.

“I got to observe stuff at the meets that I’ll bring back to Sweet Home,” he said.

Thorpe said the opportunity to go on the trip made him particularly appreciative of Sweet Home and the support and examples he’s had from his family.

“The minute I leave, I think about coming home because I like home,” he said.

He said what he’s achieved, as one of Oregon’s top high school coaches and now as an administrator, “takes quite a commitment, quite a sacrifice.”

“My wife has allowed me to pursue my goals, to be a coach. A lot of people can coach, but to be successful takes a lot of extra work.

“She’s supported me.”

He said he’s also appreciative of the examples set by his father, Wayne Thorpe, who was one of the founders of the Sweet Home Mat Club in the 1970s, and his mother, Jeanie Thorpe, who, he said, staffed the snack bars at wrestling tournaments and baseball games for many years.

Also, he said, he learned leadership, and its costs, from longtime Sweet Home football coach Rob Younger.

“Rob Younger has always been willing to take on those leadership positions,” Thorpe said. “You never hear complaints about someone who isn’t involved, who’s not taking a risk.”

He said it’s been worth it, though.

“For me, there’s rewards. There’s so much that goes along with it.”