LHS wrestlers, coaches visit Japan as exchange team

Written by Casey Kellas, The Observer July 06, 2012 12:00 am

Wrestling is a sport that is practiced world wide. 

And for three La Grande High School wrestlers, wrestling gave them a chance to see a part of the world that they otherwise may not have had the chance to see.

Tyler Isaacson, Cole Rohan and Ryan Middleton, along with coaches Klel Carson and Tom Kenny, traveled to Japan recently as part of a cultural exchange team representing Oregon.

For 11 days, 14 of Oregon’s best high school wrestlers traveled to four of Japan’s prefectures (states) and competed in freestyle matches against Japanese wrestlers.

But that wasn’t all.

The team also had the chance to meet congressmen, give speeches and take part in dinners with the communities they visited.

“It felt like we were ambassadors for America,” Carson said. “The relationships we made were just awesome. It was a great cultural experience, and a great opportunity for those kids. Not just the wrestling, but the life experiences as well.”

The wrestlers were selected to the team by coaches around Oregon based on not only how they did at the state tournament, but also what kind of kids they are away from the mats.

Carson said that all of his boys won matches along the way, but the competition level was high.

But the wrestling part of it might be a minor part of the memories made.

The team got to visit temples, see the Japanese Gardens and took in the Japanese way of life. 

Carson also added that the team was treated like royalty during their time there.

Rohan was quick to agree.

“All of the girls wanted to take pictures with us. We stayed in the best hotels, had the best food. It was fun,” Rohan said.

But getting to go through it all with his coaches and teammates made it extra special.

“It made it a lot more fun,” Rohan said.

Carson said that he didn’t jump at the chance to coach the team right away, but is glad he did.

“We could have never of had an experience like that otherwise. I won’t pass on the opportunity to do it again,” the coach said.

The wrestlers did fundraising to help with the expenses, and according to Carson, the community came through.

“I just want to thank the community for helping out. I can’t thank just one person because I’d be leaving 50 people out. But I just want the community to know that it really stepped up,” Carson said.

Rohan and Middleton’s summer travels aren’t done yet. 

The two will travel to North Dakota this month for the freestyle and Greco Roman national tournament, where they will once again be representing Oregon.

So it’s safe to say that
La Grande wrestling is making a name for itself. Not just nationally, but around the world.