Oregon State Wrestling’s Head Coach Chris Pendleton believes that in order for growth to take place, first must come a little adversity.
Pendleton has seen this first hand. Not only seen his wrestlers overcome their own hardships, but he has also seen it from his recently born son, Ryker.
“It takes a little bit of pain to grow,” Pendleton said. “For myself, when I look at my one-month-old son, he’s screaming and crying cause he’s growing and it’s painful. And it kind of translates to the program, right?”
But as predicted by Pendleton, all of the pain and adversity that the Oregon State Wrestling team went through helped them in the long run, as on Feb. 28, the Beavers finished second in the PAC-12 wrestling championship, had two individual PAC-12 champions, and qualified four wrestlers for the NCAA Wrestling Tournament in St. Louis, Missouri.
Redshirt senior Devan Turner, who is ranked 20th in the country at the 133 lb. weight class, won the second PAC-12 title of his college career, defeating Cal State Bakersfield’s Chance Rich by a score of 3-1. With the win, Turner qualified for the national championship, making him a three-time NCAA qualifier.
“I feel good, I feel good,” Turner said. “[I] overcame a lot of adversity, so this one felt really good.”
Turner’s season truly was one of hardship, starting the season losing his first three matches in a row. But still, Turner kept his head up, and fought through the adversity with the help of his coaches, along with the help of a mindset he’s held his whole life.
“Something I’ve naturally always had [was the mindset of] you can only control what you can control,” Turner said. “And after that first competition I went 0-3, the coaches kept telling me ‘hey, you can only control what you can control.’ If it’s not in my hands, I can’t do anything about it.”
Difficulty in his early matches was far from the only adversity that Turner had to overcome in the 2021 season, however. Pendleton revealed that Turner was released out of quarantine due to contact tracing just days before the PAC-12 championship, showing what Pendleton believes was a true amount of grit and love for this sport.
“We had guys that came out of quarantine for contact tracing Thursday [Feb. 25],” Pendleton said. “Devan Turner, PAC-12 Champion, [after] 14 days not training with us. I mean, I would love to sit here and take credit and say [that] it was awesome coaching, but you can’t coach that kind of toughness. You can’t coach these guys overcoming adversity. I am a very very lucky and fortunate coach that I have kids like that on the team.”
Redshirt junior Grant Willits, ranked 14th in the country at the 141 lb. weight class, also won his second PAC-12 title, defeating Stanford’s Real Woods by pinning him halfway through the second period. With his win in the finals, Willits also punched his ticket to the National Tournament, also making him a 3X NCAA qualifier.
Considering that Willits’ win came while getting revenge over Woods, who defeated him in last year’s PAC-12 championship by a score of 11-2, the junior wrestler was feeling good in his postgame press conference.
“Feels great man, PAC-12 title. It’s always a good feeling getting your hand raised. And getting that revenge just makes it more sweet,” Willits said.
The pivotal moment of the match came when Willits shot in for a single-leg takedown. From there, he was able to transition to lock up the cradle, and secure the victory. But throughout the entire sequence, Willits wasn’t trying to focus on the pin, but rather, he was focusing on getting the takedown, as every single point matters in a finals match.
“I got in that single [leg] and locked up that cradle, I was sitting there, honestly, I wasn’t thinking [about] pinning him,” Willits said. “I was thinking, ‘secure the two, rack up some riding time.’ Honestly, I don’t even know what was going through my head, I just got in that moment and was like ‘Whatever happens happens.’”
Despite a shot at a PAC-12 title, and revenge over Woods, Willits was not scared heading into this match, even though he had lost to Woods the previous year. But rather, he saw this match as a challenge, as a stepping stool to become the greatest wrestler that he can become.
“I’m here to wrestle the best, I want to wrestle the best,” Willits said. “And to be the best, you have to beat the best. So I took it as a challenge, and if I’m going to be an All-American, I’m going to have to beat these guys anyways, so bring it on.”
The other two Oregon State wrestlers who locked their spot in the national championship were redshirt junior Hunter Willits, who is ranked 12th in the 157 lb. weight class, and redshirt sophomore J.J. Dixon, who is ranked 30th in the 197 lb. weight class. Hunter Willits lost his match to Arizona State’s Jacori Teemer by a score of 9-4, and Dixon lost his match to Arizona State’s Kordell Norfleet by a score of 16-4. Still, both wrestlers have a chance at redemption at the national championship.
Overall, Coach Pendelton said that he was proud of how his team performed. He was not only proud of his new team, but also his former team. It was only last year where Pendleton was coaching at Arizona State, and seeing both teams perform at such a high level made him especially proud.
“It was hard. You know, you build relationships. I mean, these kids have eaten at my house, they’ve played with my dogs, their families have sent me onesies for my son. The  pounder, I held that kid in diapers. So it’s not easy. It does make you proud, seeing how some of them have developed as people and wrestlers,” Pendleton said. “But, I’m a Beaver. I got a team full of guys that are believing and changing the culture every day and I’m proud of what we’ve done.”
And seeing his Oregon State team winning matches, and seeing Turner and Willits capture their second individual titles, almost brought a tear to Pendleton’s eyes, especially after all of the adversity the team has been through.
“I got a little choked up,” Pendleton said. “You really look at what they’ve done in a calendar year. This time last year, I was coaching against them. They got new coaches, new teammates, new assistant coaches, a pandemic, everything they’ve had to overcome and go through, but never once did they complain.”
But now, the Oregon State team will be working towards the National Tournament, beginning on March 18 and ending on the 20th. And Pendleton already knows what the individuals who qualified for the tournament need to work on.
“Finishing matches and believing in themselves,” Pendleton said. “It was one of those things [where we] started the matches too slow, and by the end of the match, we’re like ‘oh wait a minute, I’m good, I can be here, I can compete at this level.’ So I think that would be the biggest thing we’re addressing.”
125: #26 Brandon Kaylor (3rd Place)
Quarterfinal – #26 Brandon Kaylor (OSU) major decision Eddie Flores (CSUB), 12-3
Semifinal – #25 Jackson DiSario (Stanford) decision #26 Brandon Kaylor (OSU), 7-3
Consolation semifinal – #26 Brandon Kaylor (OSU) injury forfeit Khyler Brewer (UALR)
3rd place match – #26 Brandon Kaylor (OSU) decision Antonio Lorenzo (Cal Poly), 3-1
133: #20 Devan Turner (1st Place, NCAA Qualifier)
Semifinal – #20 Devan Turner (OSU) decision #24 Jason Miranda (Stanford), 4-3 (TB-1)
Championship –#20 Devan Turner (OSU) decision #30 Chance Rich (CSUB), 3-1
141: #14 Grant Willits (1st Place, NCAA Qualifier)
Semifinal – #14 Grant Willits (OSU) decision Julian Chlebove (ASU), 7-2
Championship – #14 Grant Willits fall Real Woods (Stanford), 4:42
149: Lane Stigall (4th Place)
Quarterfinal – Lane Stigall (OSU) major decision Kyle Prewitt (UALR), 16-8
Semifinal – #10 Legend Lamer (Cal Poly) major decision Lane Stigall (OSU), 11-2
Consolation semifinal – Lane Stigall (OSU) major decision Kalani Tonge (CSUB), 9-1
3rd place match – #28 Cory Crooks (ASU) decision Lane Stigall (OSU), 7-2
157: #12 Hunter Willits (2nd Place, NCAA Qualifier)
Semifinal – #12 Hunter Willits (OSU) major decision Brawley Lamer (Cal Poly), 14-2
Championship – #12 Jacori Teemer (ASU) decision #12 Hunter Willits (OSU), 9-4
165: Matthew Olguin (3rd Place)
Quarterfinal – Matthew Olguin (OSU) fall Hunter LaRue (CSUB), 5:34
Semifinal – #4 Anthony Valencia (ASU) decision Matthew Olguin (OSU), 8-1
Consolation semifinal – Matthew Olguin (OSU) fall Alex Hernandez (UALR), 6:23
3rd place match – Matthew Olguin (OSU) decision Adam Kemp (Cal Poly), 2-1 (TB-1)
174: Colton Beisley (5th Place)
Quarterfinal – Triston Wills (UALR) decision Colton Beisley (OSU), 8-5
Consolation semifinal – Albert Urias (CSUB) decision Colton Beisley (OSU), 8-3
5th place match – Colton Beisley (OSU) tech. fall Elijah Clever (Stanford), 19-3
184: #24 Ryan Reyes (2nd Place)
Semifinal – #24 Ryan Reyes (OSU) decision Jared Hill (Stanford), 9-5
Championship – #23 Dom Ducharme (CSUB) decision #24 Ryan Reyes (OSU), 3-2 (TB-1)
197: #30 J.J. Dixon (2nd Place, NCAA Qualifier)
Semifinal – #30 J.J. Dixon (OSU) decision Josh Loomer (CSUB), 2-0
Championship – #4 Kordell Norfleet (ASU) major decision #30 J.J. Dixon (OSU), 16-4
HWT: Brian Barnes (6th Place)
Quarterfinal – Sam Aguilar (Cal Poly) major decision Brian Barnes (OSU), 8-0
Consolation semifinal – Jacob Sieder (CSUB) fall Brian Barnes (OSU), 3:44
5th place match – Gabe Beyer (UALR) fall Brian Barnes (OSU), 3:16
Arizona State, 138.0
Oregon State, 123.0
Cal Poly, 107.0
CSU Bakersfield, 97.5
Little Rock, 69.0