FROM LIONS TO BEAVERS
Gold medals hanging from their necks and winning smiles on their faces, Myles Terry, Colton Beisley and Haidon Allen are pictured together the day each won a middle-school district wrestling championship.
Seven years later, the three from St. Helens are still together, focused on one of the sports they have shared since becoming friends in elementary school.
The trio are sophomores on the wrestling team at Oregon State.
Of the three, Terry has seen the most competition. He was the first of them to walk on to the Beavers team, and has posted 20 wins over two seasons. Wrestling in the 184-pound weight class, he is 10-10 this season after finishing third at 174 pounds at the 2018 Pac-12 championships as a freshman.
Beisley went 4-5 this season at 165 pounds. After redshirting last season, he went 1-1 in dual meets and 3-4 in limited tournament action.
Allen redshirted this season after transferring to Oregon State. He did wrestle in several open tournaments, going 2-6.
All three are members of the same fraternity.
"It's really awesome to have two guys from my hometown on the team," Terry says. "I was the first to decide on going here to wrestle, so I really pushed for them to come with me."
For Oregon State coach Jim Zalesky, having three friends in the program enhances team bonding. And getting driven, committed wrestlers from the region is significant for a program that only has 9.9 full scholarships to spread over the roster.
A marketing major, Terry is happy his win percentage improved to .500 as a sophomore but was hoping for more after narrowly missing a bid to the NCAA championships as a freshman, when he cut weight to wrestle at 174 pounds because there was an opening in the lineup.
The jump this season to 184 pounds proved to be challenging, even though 184 is closer to his natural weight.
"I put on a lot of weight to get up to 184, but I've gradually lost it throughout the season to the point where I haven't been cutting any weight since early in the year," Terry says. "This has made things pretty tough, because I feel pretty small at my weight class now."
The weight issues were part of the reason Terry slipped down the depth chart at 184 as the season progressed.
"He's really explosive, and he can wrestle a lot of positions," Zalesky says. "The one position he needs to get better at is the down position, or on the mat overall. At this level, you've got to be get away and ride. On his feet, he's got good ability on defense and shots."
Beisley is a fisheries and wildlife major who placed fifth in the 2017 Class 5A tournament at 170 pounds. He decided to give wrestling at OSU a shot after Terry walked on and landed a spot on the roster, and felt pretty good about the start of this season. He took sixth place at an open tournament in Spokane, Washington, and in a dual meet against Clackamas Community College scored a satisfying 7-1 win over Colby Winnett, a former Oregon School Activitites Association 6A champion for Gresham High.
Beisley was scheduled to travel for a dual meet at Fresno State on Jan. 31, but he suffered a sprained ankle wrestling at practice the day before that trip, effectively ending his season.
Zalesky says Beisley has improved significantly since arriving in Corvallis.
"He's got a great work ethic. His work ethic and energy are great to have," the coach says.
Beisley likes his progression.
"The season overall I thought was pretty good. I'm definitely excited for next year," Beisley says.
So is Allen, who transferred to OSU after a successful season wrestling for a first-year program at the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kansas. Wrestling at 133 pounds, Allen was one win shy of earning NAIA All-American status after going 2-2 at the national championships.
Despite that success, he decided to transfer to OSU, in part to be closer to home and in part looking for a different education experience.
Yes, having Terry and Beisley in Corvallis was a factor, but not the main reason to transfer, according to Allen.
Allen, who capped his high school career going 2-2 in the 132-pound bracket at the 2017 5A tournament, says his redshirt year has been beneficial, in part because of the daily challenge of competing with Pac-12 wrestlers in practice.
"The highlight of my season was figuring out I could push myself, so that's what I'm going to keep doing," Allen says.
Zalesky noted that Allen is a popular workout partner for several varsity Beavers, including Ronnie Bresser, ranked third in the nation at 125 pounds.
"A lot of guys like going with him because he's explosive, he's quick, he's fast. Once you get on him, he's hard to finish," Zalesky says.
Football was the favorite sport for each of the three, but wrestling has provided the opportunity to compete at the highest level.
College wrestling, of course, means competing against men — wrestlers who know how to impose their will on a mat.
In the wrestling room at OSU, the St. Helens trio are learning intricacies of the sport, for example how to flow from one move into another, how to turn a tough spot into an opportunity to shoot, and how to turn failure into motivation.
"My technique since I've gotten to college is 10 times better," Terry says. "Being a good athlete in high school allowed me to get away with a lot of stuff that doesn't really work at this level, so I had to work to correct a lot of the things I've always been doing wrong."
That's not a knock on the training Terry and his pals got while at St. Helens, just a reality when a sport goes from one you spend a few hours a week on during the winter to becoming your main focus.
Terry, in fact, only started taking wrestling seriously as a high school senior after injuries cut short his junior and senior football seasons for the Lions.
"The weight training program at St. Helens prepared me the most for wrestling here," Terry says. "I came in being one of the heavier lifters on the team, which really helped me out with the sport, as strength plays a bit more of a role in college wrestling than it does in high school."
One stark difference between high school and college: At OSU, wrestlers must be within six pounds of their weight class at the start of each practice.
For Beisley, one challenge is learning to react quickly to changing circumstances during a match, to make that flow from one move to another.
"The big difference from high school to college is you've got to be able to make shots from the tie up and to put two shots together, so you throw a fake in and then go right to another shot," Beisley says.
Beisley, who completed his high school wrestling career by placing fifth at the 2017 state tournament, says he learned persistence from wrestling at St. Helens High.
"Always keep going. Freshman year (at St. Helens) I wasn't very good, but I ended up being pretty good by senior year just by working hard," he says.
That arc of improvement is something he intends to repeat at Oregon State.
"A goal of mine is to win the Pac-12s together and repeat that picture (from seventh grade)," Beisley says. "That would be pretty cool."