Central Valley wrestling coach John Owen recalled watching Colton Orrino struggle during a practice last winter.
It was so out of character that it prompted Owen to ask Orrino what was bothering him.
“He told me he was sick,” Owen said. “I checked his head and he was running a temperature. He never asked to sit out.”
Owen went to CV one morning last week to open the practice room for an early workout at 6:30. He found Orrino in the gym. It’s a routine occurrence.
“He had just finished running,” Owen said.
Owen appreciates many things about Orrino, who broke through last year to capture a state championship at 132 pounds. Near the top of his list is Orrino’s work ethic. Orrino doesn’t take any shortcuts.
He showed promise as a freshman, taking second at state. As a sophomore he took third. Owen said the difference between Orrino’s first two years and last winter wasn’t anything physical.
“It was confidence and experience,” Owen said. “He’s like any other kid. He battles pressures like everybody else does. It’s a very real thing. His nemesis was winning the big match.”
“My freshman and sophomore years were terrible in terms of confidence,” he said. “Our sport plays with your mind. It’s the most mentally and physically challenging sport there is around. It’s a grind.”
Orrino posted a 31-1 record a year ago – his lone loss coming against eventual Idaho state champion Bryce Parson of Lewiston in the semifinals at the Tri-State tourney. Parson, a senior this year, was no slouch, finishing 51-1 and setting a school record with 39 pins. Orrino brings an 86-11 record into the season.
“The majority of my losses have been at Tri-State,” said Orrino, who finished a career-best third at the tournament last year. “I’ve taken my lumps there.”
Orrino has moved to 145 pounds this year, and he not only wants to repeat as a state champ but also wants to win at Tri-State.
His main goals, he said, are to go undefeated and not allow a takedown. He gave up only two takedowns last year.
One of the two takedowns he allowed came when Parson opened a 5-0 lead 10 seconds into their match.
“I shot a double leg and he put me right on my back in the first 5 seconds,” said Orrino, who lost 8-3. “I knew he was real tough. I’d like another shot at him.”
As the season wore on last year, Orrino knew a state title was something he could realize.
“I wasn’t going to let the atmosphere at state bother me,” he said. “I wasn’t going to walk out of that building (Tacoma Dome) without getting my hand raised.”
Although Orrino has won nearly eight times more than he’s lost, Owen said he respects how Orrino has dealt with losing.
“This might not sound like a compliment but I don’t think I’ve had a better kid that’s been a better loser than him,” Owen said. “When he’s lost, he goes and shakes the hand of the other coach. He’s a man about it. If he has some emotions he hides it. He’s a good role model for kids, especially the ones who throw temper tantrums when they lose. In our sport the highs are so high and the lows are so low. He’s still disappointed if he loses, but he handles it like a man.”
Owen sees a bright future for Orrino in collegiate wrestling.
“He’s got a really good upside,” Owen said. “He’s strong, he’s quick and he’s becoming a very good technical wrestler.”
Orrino gives credit to his dad, Mike Orrino, his youth coach Dave Graham and Owen for having big impacts on him.
He said Owen has had the biggest impact.
“He’s the reason I’ve gotten to where I am,” Orrino said.
Orrino knows nothing will be handed to him as he tries to repeat as a state champ this season.
“I’ve got to put in the work every day,” he said. “I’ve got to keep grinding and pushing to make myself better. No parties, no staying up late. I have to do all the right things off the mat.”