By Jeremy McDonald
JEFFERSON, Ore.– It’s weird to think two years ago Troy Thomas was the Head Coach at McKay High School, seeing then-junior David Rubio reach the first of two State Finals and his lone State Title win.
Fast forward two years and an assistant coaching stint at West Salem, Thomas is back at the helm of a program. Leading 2A Jefferson’s wrestling program. A sharp contrast from 40-plus kids, now coaching 15 in a mat room just outside of the Lions basketball gym.
“The kids we have in here, they’re super good kids. They’re dedicated, they really want to wrestle, they’re eager to learn. I’m more than happy to be here,” “There is a culture shock of, ‘ok, there’s far less kids’, but the amount of one-on-one time that I can give in each wrestler is greatly improved from coaching 50-kids.
“It’s going to be interesting to kids. I’ve talked to some Hall of Fame-type coaches and they’ve said that, ‘it’s hard to coach 50 kids and it’s hard to coach like 10 kids’. It’s going to be interesting I’ll say.”
It helps too, as Thomas is the lone coach for the Lions program, to have leaders willing to help out during practice.
Brad Bowser, who went to State two years ago as a freshman, and Senior Austin Denton were two leaders Friday afternoon that helped with the young Jefferson team. Selling home what the first-year Jefferson coach is trying to teach them.
“Considering we have such a small team and a lot of our players are new, not a lot of experienced people, we really need people to teach and help people learn just the basics,” said Browser.
“It’s definitely a good feeling to help out somebody that isn’t as experienced as you,” adds Denton. “Teach them something you know, help them get better as a team and as individuals. Help them get better and help them succeed with what you teach them.”
Both were leading by example. Bowser would work in quick critiques while Denton took time and worked through with the wrestlers around him.
And as the season starts up after Thanksgiving with their first action of the year at Harriburg, both of their leaders are hoping for a good year.
Bowser, the experiences of the tougher task of being one of the Top 2 guys to qualify for State last year keeps the Junior motivated for the task at hand.
“It keeps me motivated. It’s my dream, I’ve been wrestling since third-grade. It really keeps me motivated to keep working hard and not give up, not get on the wrong track,” said Bowser, who qualified for State at 120 his Freshman year.
After his Semi-finals defeat in the District Meet last year at 152 pounds, Denton believes that he can get to the State tournament.
“I think I can qualify, last year I was really, really close. I lost in the semi-finals in Districts, I lost it there,” he starts. “If I work hard individually, I could possibly qualify for State. I don’t know about doing what at the State Tournament, but it’s all about working hard.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald