Just standing there looking up at the record board in the Othello wrestling room is enough to inspire the guys working hard to carry that tradition forward.
There’s the state team titles, back-to-back Class A championships in 1968-69, the first 2A title in 1974 and again 2004 and the latest team title in 2013.
The list of individual state champions and state placers dates back to the first state champion Elmer Eggebrecht (1953) and references Dennis Warren’s (1958, 1960) reign of two state titles in three years. That list goes on and on and on.
Like most rooms across wrestling country, tradition means something. The price of winning is paid in blood, sometimes literally, sweat and work in the room. No room, no tradition.
This year’s Huskies squad will tap into the knowledge and skill set of some of the guys on the Huskies tradition board as they step into the circle for the 2017-18 season.
Current head coach Rudy Ochoa II has assembled an all-star cast of assistant coaches with one heart, one mind, one goal, to bring Huskies wrestling back to the top shelf on the Mat Classic podium.
“Every year I learn so much, especially from my coaching staff. My staff is unbelievable. They’ve all been head coaches, coached state championship teams. It’s an all-star coaching staff and I’ve learned a lot from them,” said Ochoa II, who heads into his third season. “We frequently meet before and after practice and try and figure out just what exactly the team needs. It’s so unique to have this kind of (coaching) talent in the room. The kids are excited and working hard and they’re learning from the best.”
There’s, of course, Rudy Ochoa Sr. who was part of the Othello back-to-back state wrestling teams in 1968-69. He won the 106-pound state championship (1968). Rudy Sr. also has 442 wins and coached the Huskies softball team to four state championships.
The room includes Wayne Schutte, a former Huskies head coach before the legendary Ruben Martinez. Schutte and Rudy Sr. were teammates on the back-to-back title teams. Wayne’s a Washington state and National Wrestling Hall of Fame coach.
Jacob Johnson’s an Othello guy. He played with Rudy II on that 2004 Huskies state championship football team and was Ochoa’s practice partner in the wrestling room.
The list goes on, which includes two-time state champion Freddie Flores (2005-06). Freddie worked a bit with last year’s state champions TJ Martinez and Reese Jones. He’ll come on board as soon as his USA Wrestling obligations are completed.
They also have Sammy Rocha, who was the head coach for Connell when the Eagles were the state runner-up in 1997, and Edgar Mendez, who wrestled for Rocha on Connell on that team.
Maybe one of the most intriguing in this all-star lineup is the new guy, Rafael Ruiz. Ruiz is a two-time state champion from Alaska where he set the high school wins record with a 53-2 record and 40 pins in 2004. He broke the state pins record (34) set in 1990. Those state records were researched by Eric Wade, who runs the website www.AlaskaWrestling.com. All that earned him a scholarship at Ohio State.
“It all intertwines somehow,” Ochoa II said. ”It puts it in perspective how I literally learn so much every day. I embrace the pressure of keeping the bar raised as high as I can.
“My goal is to raise it to new heights. It’s fun, they’re really good coaches, friends and mentors, so it makes it easy. There’s not any egos. We all work well together and add different angles to getting Othello wrestling back on top.”
The beat goes on and Huskies wrestling is taking care of its own.
Rodney Harwood is a sports writer at the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org