SPORTS: ‘We have a legend here today’

PORT ANGELES — It took Port Angeles High School wrestling coach Erik Gonzalez a few minutes to list off Bruce Baumgartner’s career achievements.

The list was simply too lengthy to sum up in one or two sentences:

Two-time Olympic gold medalist, three-time world champion, International Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee, United States flag-bearer at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics . . . just to name a few.

“We have a legend here today,” Gonzalez said before surrendering the floor to Baumgartner at the seventh annual Olympic Mountain Wrestling Camp on Tuesday.

Yet that legend was pinned in his first high school match. And his best finish at the New Jersey state tournament was third.

He wasn’t even guaranteed to make his college team at Indiana State University when his father drove him to Terra Haute, Ind., for his freshman year.

Boosting his focus

The difference, Baumgartner told the 46 campers and handful of community members during a lunchtime speech, was his focus.

In high school, he might do 25 push-ups instead of the 50 his coach asked of him, or run two miles instead of three.

Once he got to college, following a subtle challenge from his dad, Baumgartner decided to give his all in everything he did. His seemingly unending list of accomplishments were the result of that.

“Everybody in here can have success,” said Baumgartner, now athletic director at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania.

“It takes a lot of hard work, but the blueprint is there.”

Inspirational talk

Baumgartner laid out that plan for the campers during his 20-minute speech.

The 48-year-old talked about setting goals, surrounding yourself with good people, taking care of your mind and body and, most importantly, doing your best at all times.

“If you focus and do your absolute best, it takes the same amount of time [as slacking off],” he said.

“Always work hard and be persistent.”

Campers have been working hard each of the last two days at Gonzalez’s camp, set to end Thursday.

The four-day affair, which Baumgartner has attended each of the past seven years, is a big part of Gonzalez’s successful high school wrestling program in Port Angeles.

The Roughriders have won individual state crowns twice during his coaching tenure, the only two in school history.

Undefeated season

One of those came in the Class 3A event this winter, when heavyweight John Camp put the finishing touches on a 40-0 season with four straight pins at Mat Classic XXI.

His title run was part of Port Angeles’ best team finish (13th) at state in more than a decade.

Camp was in attendance on Tuesday, just as he had been the past six years.

“This is the first camp I went to,” said Camp, who will wrestle for Highline Community College next winter.

“I really learned a lot from Bruce over the years.

“This is a really good camp for heavyweights.”

Baumgartner said he keeps coming back each summer because he likes the kids that attend the camp and the atmosphere.

“We try to keep it about the kids,” he said.

“We try to teach them wrestling . . . but we try to instill other things in them as well.”

_________

Sports writer/columnist Matt Schubert can be reached at 360-417-3526 or at [email protected]

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