Wrestling camp becoming generational affair

As Steve Thorpe watched dozens of wrestlers lope around the Main Gym floor at Sweet Home High School Thursday, July 6, he realized he’d been here before.

So many times, in fact, that Thorpe noted he was watching boys whose father were coaches in the room, who had themselves participated in the Santiam Wrestling Camp, which was in its 22nd year last week. The camp, which has run annually except for the 2020 COVID year, was held July 5-7.

Thorpe said the turnout for this year’s camp was about 170 wrestlers from all over the state, several dozen of whom were from Sweet Home.

Directing the warmup session in the Main Gym was Alex Rich, a four-time state champion at Crescent Valley who attended the Sweet Home camp before moving on to Oregon State in 2015.

Rich was helping Dan Herb, head coach at Banks, who returned to his alma mater after a career at Southern Oregon University.

“He’s a very, very, very good coach, and a great human,” Thorpe said.

In the Activities Gym, younger campers were being instructed by Jayson Wullbrandt, who attended the camp as a kid, moved on to Oregon State and now coaches at Clackamas High School. His two sons were among this year’s campers.

In the Wrestling Room, otherwise known as the “Fargo Room,” athletes who have qualified for the national championships later this month in Fargo, N.D., were being coached by Luke Larwin, who also was a camper before wrestling at the University of Oregon and now is head coach at Bend High School.

Larwin, whose three sons were campers this year, was being assisted with the advanced wrestlers by Roseburg alum Nash Singleton, now wrestling for the Beavers, who was a regular at the Santiam camp, Thorpe noted.

“Nash has come to the camp since he was a little boy and he became a multiple state champ at Roseburg,” he said. “I’m very proud of what this camp has become and how many kids, generationally, are attending this camp. It makes it it makes it something almost iconic, I guess.”

He said the goal over the years has been to make the camp, directed this year by himself and Thurston Coach Mike Simons, not just a venue for accomplished wrestlers to polish up their skills before the nationals, but to make the sport inclusive.

“Most camps are a fundamentals camp, where you’re inexperienced and you come to this camp or you’re an intense camp.

“We have wrestlers that don’t even have a full year under their belt that are here, and then we have two- and three-time state champions, and multiple All-Americans that are training here.”

He said organizers have emphasized making the three-day camp affordable for any wrestler who wants to participate, and “we’ve continued to find ways to be innovative and to make our sport fun.”

“One of the things I like is I get to put quality people in front of these kids.

“We’re trying to better our sport, better Oregon wrestling, but this also helps Sweet Home. We get over 40 or 50 Sweet Home kids here, trainng with different people and some of the people they’re going to see as the year goes on. It just makes a difference.”