John Owen has made a hall of fame career out of taking wrestlers to big tournaments, and his long list of national championships and individual national and state champions is a testament to his ability to prepare athletes for the ultimate test.
Now the wrestling coach at Central Valley, Owen has a new challenge as he prepares his Bears for the state Class 4A wrestling tournament this weekend at the Tacoma Dome.
“I will tell you this, the one thing that you have to deal with now that I wish we didn’t is social media,” Owen said. “Kids get online and find websites that start predicting who will win and who will beat who and they start wrestling the tournament in their head before they ever get to Tacoma.
“You have parents downloading the tournament brackets almost before the state gets them posted online. I think you’re better off back in the old days, when you never knew who you were going to wrestle until you got to the tournament and walked in the gym.”
Owen likes to maintain his team’s routine, even in the last week of the season. He put his team through intense workouts Monday and Tuesday – workouts aimed at maintaining cardiovascular fitness heading into two intense days of wrestling.
“It’s what they’re used to,” he said. “You don’t want to change things now.”
That applies to the way Owen talks to his team.
From the first day of practice in the CV wrestling room until the day the team leaves for the last time, heading off to a bus to carry them to Tacoma, the coach tries to talk to his team the same way, always with an eye toward making them better athletes, better teammates and better competitors.
“It’s an old cliché, but I use it: If I start yelling at you now, what are you going to do at the end of the year when I really need you to listen to me?” Owen said with a laugh.
Owen said he’s pleased with the way his squad has competed this season.
It wasn’t an ideal dual meet squad, he admits. There were some weight classes he had trouble filling and others where exceptional wresters were blocked by outstanding wrestlers.
“That’s what makes us a better tournament team,” Owen said. “We have a couple guys who are finally getting a chance to wrestle and they’re making the most of it. And that says a lot about those kids and the communication that goes on with them that they’ve been able to be patient and wait for their time to come.”
Central Valley takes an experienced team to Tacoma.
Defending state champion Blake Beard was the regional champion at 138 pounds. His brother, Bryson, the runner-up at 120 last year, also won the regional title. Chauncye Garigan captured the regional title at 182.
Kyle Neal was a pleasant surprise, battling his way to the 138 final.
“He’s one of those kids who have been blocked,” Owen said. “He was blocked at 138 by a defending state champion (Blake Beard). He couldn’t go down a weight because he was blocked there, too.”
Returning state placer Bridger Beard placed third at 126 in the regional, as did Braedon Orrino at 145.
Owen said he likes his wrestlers to keep their matches in perspective.
“When you start reading stuff online, you start thinking about having to wrestle someone else’s style,” he said. “If you know that Hoquiam, say, has a really strong cradle, you start thinking about how you’re going to defend against it.
“What you really need to be thinking is about how to make them wrestle your style. You don’t want to be thinking about how to stop what they’re going to do. You want to go in there and make them think about what you’re going to do.”
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.