SWEET HOME " Sweet Home High wrestling coach Steve Thorpe looked tired as he leaned back in a wooden chair in the nearly empty room where he teaches mathematics during the school year.
He rubbed his eyes and tossed a pair of dark sunglasses onto a desk.
It's almost 4 p.m,. on a hot summer day in the middle of July. Classes at SHHS have been out for a month, yet Thorpe continues to teach. His class size, though, has swelled from 20 students learning about algebra to nearly 200 athletes learning about single-leg takedowns and "gut wrenches."
Sunday evening, Thorpe and eight other coaches, plus college athletes on summer break, began the sixth summer wrestling camp on Husky mats.
"We actually had to turn kids away this year, "Thorpe said of the camp's popularity. "Plus, the Canadian team usually comes and didn't this year, or we would have nearly 200 kids. As it is, we're at 174 and that's plenty."
The Santiam Wrestling Camp is a five-day training program billed as an individual camp, but several coaches from around the state consider it their team camp and bring van loads of potential state champions.
Teams represented this week include Sweet Home, Roseburg, Newberg, Thurston, South Medford, St. Helens, Tillamook, Toledo, Harrisburg and Nyssa.
Wrestlers range from junior high age through high school, although there are some members of the Sweet Home Mat Club that during the regular season number more than 100 youngsters.
"Our goal is simple, "said Thorpe, Husky head coach for nine years. "We want to make better Oregon wrestlers, and we do that by working on all three styles of wrestling: Greco Roman, collegiate and freestyle."
Adding to the flavor of the camp is that some of the state's best wrestling coaches are also Thorpe's old mat cronies such as Neal Russo of powerhouse Newberg and Steve Lander of Roseburg. Throw in the talents of clinician Luke Clever, whose Nyssa teams have earned six state class 2A championships in a row, and the stage is set for an intense week of learning. There is very little time for horsing around during the training day. Save that for the afternoon break or evening social activities.
Daily workouts start with an early morning run through the streets of Sweet Home, followed by a training session, an afternoon activity and then an evening session.
SHHS activities director Steve Hummer plans and executes the daily fun times such as swimming at Foster reservoir, or an evening at the Rio Theater.
Several campers use the week as a tune-up for the Cadet or Junior National camps to be held next week at Seaside and Eugene, respectively.
Thorpe said he is grateful the high school has three workout areas " an activities gym, the new main gym and the new wrestling room " so athletes can be divided into weight groups and have ample room for technique workouts. Icing on the cake is a new weight room that is adjacent to the wrestling room.
The public is invited to get a glimpse of the athletes in action during a free exhibition at 6:30 p.m. today in the main gym.
- By Alex Paul, Albany Democrat-Herald