For SOU wrestler Lofstedt, it's national title or bust

In the back corner of McNeal Pavilion, tucked away at the end of a hallway next to the gymnasium, is a room known for producing champions. The warm, sticky-sweet smell of sweat hangs in the air. A blanket of humidity settles just outside the doorway, and somewhere inside the darkened room grunts and groans escape and echo down the hall.

This is the SOU wrestling room. Dim halogen lights shine down on the gray, drab wrestling mats. Across the floor pairs of wrestlers circle each other, poised to attack at any moment. A coach stands in the middle of the room surveying the action. Occasionally he'll call out instructions, but he quickly goes silent and watches. In here it's all business; and the room is nothing if not barely essential.

Wrestling close to the doorway, the next potentially great Raider grappler circles his opponent. He moves in a crouched position, his hands held low to the ground. Cold black eyes stare straight ahead, looking for an opening. Then, almost too fast to see, his hands strike out and snare his opponents ankles. Quickly he slides his body forward and steps through his opponent, taking him straight to the mat. He hops off and his opponent stands, and immediately they are circling one another again.

The attacker is Trevor Lofstedt, SOU's All-American last year at 125 pounds and the NAIA's top-ranked wrestler at that weight this year. He, like many athletes before him, has come to this room with one goal in mind: win a national championship. But in a sport driven so often by personal desire, Lofstedt carries the weight of other's expectations as well.

His father, Brent Lofstedt, won back-to-back national championships for the Raiders in 1982 and 1983 using a variation of a blanket ride called "The Lofstedt". He was also named SOU's Most Outstanding Wrestler that season as he helped lead the Raiders to the first of their four team national championships.

Growing up, Brent taught the family hold to Trevor, and the younger Lofstedt has used it ever since. The move is used to control an opponent while riding from the top position. Essentially Lofstedt drapes himself across his opponent's back and grabs their far ankle. Then he slides his other arm under his opponent's armpit, using his elbow as a lever on the back of his opponent's head. From there its all about controlling the down man's body position and using his own desperation against him.

It was during these training sessions with his father that Trevor learned the work ethic that causes coach Richey to call him a "perfectionist". It was during these sessions that the younger Lofstedt heard from his father what it takes to be a champion. Ultimately, this is how Trevor learned to accept nothing less than the best from himself every day.

"When I step on the mat, I wrestle to win every time," Lofstedt said. "I don't care what, I'll do anything I can to win."

With that attitude onto the mat with him, Lofstedt garnered attention. Wrestling fans in the Rogue Valley are quick to recognize the name, and soon questions about when, not if, he is going to win a national title arise.

But the expectations of others are like feathers compared to the weight of Trevor's expectations of himself.

"My only goal is to win a national championship this year," he responds when asked about any personal goals. "I mentally trained to get myself ready for that. I expect myself to win a title and I told myself everyday last year that I would."

"(Lofstedt) is driven to succeed in all areas of his life," says Richey. "He has such a successful mind set. He's constantly positive and supremely confident in his ability to win every time he's out there."

That is the type of attitude Trevor will need if he is to fulfill his expectations. Its also the type of attitude coach Richey hopes the other wrestlers on the Raider squad will take notice of.

The Raiders are gunning for their 38th consecutive winning season, and to achieve that, the relatively young Raider squad will need some leadership.

"We have good senior talent in Jimmy Ulrey and Skyler Massey. And the junior class is very talented with Trevor and others," says coach Richey, talking about the strengths of this year's team. "I think those two [Ulrey and Massey] and our other seniors will need to step up and fill our leadership roles though."

Ulrey, SOU's other All-American at 157 pounds, has high expectations for this season as well. After finishing sixth place at the NAIA national championships last year, the sky is the limit for the senior from Medford.

If the Raider wrestlers are going to achieve the team goal of winning the NAIA Western Regional then two things need to happen.

"Hopefully they [Lofstedt and Ulrey] improve on their finish from last year," says Richey, explaining the leadership on the team. "Their personal goals are high I'm sure. To reach our team aspirations, trophies, they have to come on strong and that carries them towards theirs."

"We want to be regional champions," Richey says about the team goals. " That can really set us up going into the national tournament. We got second place last year and I think we've added enough talent to improve that. It's been three years since we won a regional, so its time. That would be a good indicator of where we are as a team."

The season has just begun and it's impossible to see what lies ahead; but, back inside McNeal Pavilion, down the long hallway next to the gym, Lofstedt, Ulrey and the rest of the Raider wrestling team are busy making themselves into champions.

Sports editor Joe Zavala can be reached at 482-3456 x 224 or joe.

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