Lofstedt has dad in his sights

Mitchell Lofstedt, dripping with sweat following a brutal two-hour workout at McNeal Pavilion, speaks in a lazy, almost surfer-dude drawl, his words only loosely strung together.

He's tired, yes, but the body language has more to say. Lofstedt seems casually unimpressed with himself, and with the astonishing rate with which he's approached some of Southern Oregon's most important records.

In a time when star athletes shrug off success and waive away praise so often it's become a sort of cliché for the cocky, Southern Oregon's 125-pound sophomore wrestler seems to actually mean it when he says, "I don't really care about records, I've never cared about records."

Except one, he admits.

With a pin Saturday in the Raiders' final regular season dual against Simon Fraser, Lofstedt can eclipse his father's school record of 20 falls in a season, and also pass up his dad for second on the school's career pin list. Brent Lofstedt dominated the mat during two magical seasons at SOU in the early 1980s, winning back-to-back NAIA National Championships and helping the Raiders take the 1983 team title. He died of a stroke in July of 2008, but not before teaching his sons, Mitchell and older brother Trevor, another Raider great who graduated last year, a thing or two about smothering opponents into submission.

So for Mitchell Lofstedt, this particular number is personal.

"When I start the season, of course I want to win the national title, but I'm focused on going to practice every day and working on stuff, and then I do a match and the records follow that," said Lofstedt (34-6), who's been ranked No. 1 in his weight class all season after placing second at nationals last year. "But this record has more sentimental value because my dad is the previous owner, and I think he'd be proud of that."

Brent Lofstedt would have a lot to be proud of, actually. His legacy as an SOU legend secure, he may also deserve recognition as a great teacher. It was the elder Lofstedt, after all, who developed then passed on "The Lofstedt Ride," a maneuver that both his sons have ridden to countless victories.

The numbers speak for themselves. Trevor ranks No. 1 on SOU's career pins list with 41, and barring a major letdown this season, one of the best ever for a Raider, Mitchell will soon be in the 30s with two years of eligibility remaining. The family's pin prowess can be summed up with one simple fact: SOU's top three wrestlers, both in terms of pins in a season and pins in a career, are Lofstedts.

That might not be so had Mitchell Lofstedt decided to push his considerable talent to its absolute limit — that is, go NCAA. There's little doubt that he's capable. Lofstedt won three state titles, and his last 96 matches, at Roseburg High and was the fourth-best 119-pound wrestler in the nation coming out of high school, according to W.I.N Magazine. When it came time to decide where he wanted to attend college, Lofstedt wanted to keep his priorities straight. And while wrestling is a big part of his life, it's not the only part. He learned that about himself as a teenager. Growing up, Mitchell Lofstedt says, both he and his brother were forced by their dad to wrestle. Brent Lofstedt changed his philosophy on that later in life, and that decision had a startling effect on his youngest son.

"I hated (wrestling) my whole life until high school," Mitchell Lofstedt said. "My dad backed off in high school, then it was kind of my thing."

It's still his thing, but Mitchell has other interests, and that's partly what attracted him to Southern Oregon.

"I just like the family here better," he said. "I like the school a lot. I like the family, the camaraderie of the team. Wrestling is very important to me, but so is my family and so is music and school. So this is just a better fit for all those things."

The music that Lofstedt speaks of is the band he plays guitar for, "My Sweet Etcetera," which has performed a few original songs locally. Lofstedt smiles when asked about the band. — "rock and roll," he describes proudly. His brother's a member as well. Mitchell's not sure how far "My Sweet Etcetera" will go, but he wants to find out.

"It's a lot of work, but I like it a lot," he said.

Those who watch Lofstedt on the mat might say the same thing about his relentless wrestling style. He can demoralize opponents by racking up points in a hurry, quickly building insurmountable leads then pouring it on, and on. And on. He assaults opponents with a constant barrage of attacks and seems to always be on the offensive. Even on those rare occasions when he's on his back, he's never more than a split second away from a reversal and another pin.

"He goes seven minutes hard," SOU head coach Mike Ritchey said. "He's looking to pin you, he's looking to score every second of the match, and that's what makes it fun to watch, for one thing, and makes him dangerous. Guys just aren't used to his tempo.

"Eventually a guy wears down. When (Lofstedt) gets up by 10 or 12, they get a little easier to pin. He breaks guy's spirits."

While Lofstedt's aggressiveness has helped him rack up pins at an unprecedented rate — he's on pace to smash his brother's all-time school record — it has also been used against him, a fact he is well aware of. Don't expect a few setbacks to trigger an overhaul in Lofstedt's game, however. He talks wrestling strategy with a swagger that can only come from years of domination.

"Sometimes, I try stuff when I could just kind of be calm and just do shots," he said, almost laughing at the thought. "One time I got pinned I was trying to throw the kid. I was already ahead by like eight points. I just wanted to do it. He was pissing me off.

"But I think it's good to be aggressive. Even when you get thrown, it teaches you better position. You feel that, and then you can be aggressive and not be in danger."

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