VINCE WALDHAUSER from Oak Ridge pins his opponent in a match last year. Mother Lode News photo by Megan Jeremica


Wrestler Waldhauser is Trojans’ unsung hero

By December 15, 2010

VINCE WALDHAUSER from Oak Ridge pins his opponent in a match last year. Mother Lode News photo by Megan Jeremica

Oak Ridge High senior Vince Waldhauser doesn’t seek the limelight but he certainly deserves credit and recognition for what he has accomplished since he started wrestling at age 4 and a half.

Upbeat and personable off the mat, Waldhauser is all business when he’s competing. He captured the attention of onlookers at the Walsh Ironman Tournament at Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, this weekend.

Sporting the Trojan wrestling team’s trademark bleached blond hair, Waldhauser was seeded seventh in one of the premiere tournaments in the nation despite all his success to date as a prep wrestler, including earning two medals in the tough CIF State Wrestling Championships. Last season Waldhauser took second in California, hanging in despite an injury suffered early in his match; in his sophomore season he battled back from a loss in the second round and took seventh, pinning the No. 1 ranked wrestler in that bracket. That year he traveled to the National High School Championships and finished fourth.

He was third in the Northern California Junior High Wrestling Championships in seventh and eighth grade, took third at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters tournament as a sophomore, beating some higher ranked wrestlers along the way, and won the Masters tournament as a junior.

Despite his lofty list of achievements and his years of dedication to his sport, Waldhauser was largely ignored by the big midwest and eastern university programs after taking second place at state — which makes the University of Virginia, Charlotte, coaches’ signing of the “nobody” from El Dorado Hills look brilliant about now.

“After state was the calling period for coaches but I didn’t get any calls. I couldn’t figure out why,” Waldhauser said. “Then Mike Sundby (El Dorado Hills Wrestling Club coach) contacted Virginia and said he had a ’65-pounder looking for a home. They needed a 165 so they called me.”

Last weekend in a tiny small school gymnasium in Ohio, Waldhauser stunned the standing-room only crowd and garnered the respect and support of everyone, including many college recruiters, as he fought his way to the finals in the 160-pound bracket.

“Everyone was cheering for him,” Oak Ridge coach Casey Rhyan said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. There were 32 kids in his weight class and they were all so good they would be state placers in California.”

Waldhauser pinned his first two opponents and won his third match 7-4.

“I could tell he was nervous during that match,” Rhyan said. “I talked to him afterward and said, ‘Vince, you’ve done all you could to prepare for this. Now don’t worry about winning or losing. Just go out there and leave it all on the mat.’ He listened and that’s just what he did. When Vince wrestles like that — goes after his opponents — he’s tough.”

Waldhauser thought about what Rhyan said all night and decided,  “Who cares. I love what I do and I’m going to go have some fun. It worked — I’ve never had more fun at a tournament.”

Earning the reputation as the “comeback kid,” Waldhauser trailed Zach Skates of Broken Arrow, Okla., 3-2, got an escape to tie it and pinned Skates at the buzzer to win his quarterfinal match. He was down 3-2 in the semis to another top-ranked wrestler, Jordan Steiler of Florida, and came out of a scramble with 20 seconds left to take Steiler down — again at the buzzer — and win 4-3.

“He lost to Jason Luster, who is I think No. 2 in the nation, in the finals 3-2,” Rhyan said. “It was a match that could have gone either way. Vince was coming back but just didn’t have enough time. But he proved he’s as good a wrestler as anyone in the nation at 160 pounds. The sky’s the limit for him.”

Waldhauser credits advice he’s been given through the years for his success.

“Rocco Cardinale, who was my coach at Oak Ridge my freshman and sophomore years, said to me, ‘Become a student of the game and make it your own. Look back at your matches, break them down and learn from them.’ I’ve always been physically tough with a high pain threshold but now I’m mentally smart.”

Waldhauser also sets goals for himself that are far and above what most teenage athletes think about. “Wes Anderson, Dan Gable’s (Olympian) coach said, ‘Kids talk about winning league, winning masters, winning state. Set your goals high and the rest will happen.’ I want to win the NCAA Nationals (in college) and the rest will come along. That’s my goal,” Waldhauser said.

He “trains his butt off” during the week; weekends are fun.

“I take kick-boxing Monday and Friday mornings, train with three-time NCAA qualifier Jeremiah Jarvis on Tuesdays, schedule a practice with (teammate) Keeton Subjeck on Wednesdays, take Thursday morning off, and practice with the team every afternoon,” Waldhauser said. “Three times a week I do an hour of cardio after practice. The weekends (tournaments) are fun for me. Wrestling’s my passion — I don’t care whether I win or lose, I have fun.”

Waldhauser realizes he wouldn’t be where he is without the support his dad Travis has given him through the years. “He’s done countless things for me and it’s been huge for me.”

Rhyan’s confidence in him has also helped him grow. “Casey has given me a lot of room and freedom to coach. When kids listen and learn what moves I’m showing them I realized I had to listen to my coaches too. I thought I knew a lot but coaching has helped me get to the next level. Casey’s like my other dad. He has his own family but he’s always been there and spent so much time with us. He’s one of my personal heroes.”

The respect goes both ways. “I don’t know what I’ll do without him next year,” Rhyan said. “He’s already signed so he has nothing to lose now, but he still works just as hard and he’s never a star in the wrestling room, never has an attitude. Vince works with all the kids and he’s so good with them. He could run practice all by himself, that’s how good he is. It’s just so exciting to watch him progress.”

Waldhauser decided on Virginia after a visit when he saw the excellent wrestling facilities and academic opportunities. “They really take care and support their athletes and I liked that,” he said. “And the coach liked me. He knew I was tough and can deal with adversity.”

As for the lack of recognition, Waldhauser uses it as a training device. “It fuels me, drives me to keep working hard. You have to be tough to wrestle. When a football player is done with practice, he can go home and have a big meal. Sometimes a wrestler can’t even eat after a hard practice. It makes you mentally tough.”

Waldhauser dropped weight for the Ironman, but will wrestle at 171 pounds this season in the Delta River League and drop down to 162 when the 2-pound allowance kicks in. But that all depends on where Bryce Hammond is wrestling. Hammond is the wrestler who beat him at state last year. Waldhauser wants a rematch.

After taking second at the Ironman, Waldhauser’s national ranking jumped into the top five, but now it’s time to move on — train and prepare for the season and the postseason on his journey to winning an NCAA title.

When things get tough he remembers a quote from Dan Gable: “Once you’ve wrestled, everything else is easy.”

Liz Kane


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