LA GRANDE — The Eastern Oregon University men’s wrestling team is adding a two-time state champion to its roster — and it didn’t even have to leave town to find him.
The Mountaineers have signed La Grande senior Chris Woodworth, who in late February won his second straight state title en route to helping the Tigers win state for the first time since 1996.
Woodworth said the decision to sign came in part due to realizing there was more he could do on the mat, and winning the 195-pound title helped prove that to him.
“After I won that second state championship this year, I realized my wrestling career wasn’t over and that I could excel much more and get much better than I am right now,” Woodworth said.
Woodworth went 29-4 his senior season, wrapping up with a memorable 4-3 decision over Nat Brown of Elmira/Crow, one where he scored the winning takedown in the closing seconds to also secure the state championship for the team.
EOU head coach Dustyn Azure said he has watched Woodworth develop over the years and noted he started to really come into his own during his junior year.
“Watching him wrestle his junior year was when he really caught my attention, and having him at my camp,” Azure said. “That’s when I started asking more about him, trying to fill in some blank spots (in our roster) where he would fill in.”
Azure said Woodworth “looked like a junior or senior as a freshman but he still was not grown into his body yet. He’s been developing each year.”
Azure added Woodworth fits the model of what he wants to bring to EOU.
“He’s an ideal student athlete,” the coach said. “He’s smart, he can come in and wrestle, he can compete hard, he’s an all-around good kid. That’s what we’re looking for in our program.”
Woodworth said he received consideration from Corban but wanted to stay in La Grande and attend Eastern even if he didn’t wrestle.
“I was thinking of just staying at EOU even if it wasn’t for sports anyway,” he said. “I was thinking originally of walking on and playing football … but after thinking about it a little bit, and since Dustyn was offering me a scholarship, (I thought wrestling) would be better.”
Woodworth said his intent is to hone in on smaller details as he develops at the collegiate level. He noted in conversation with Azure, the coach said the key is “just really focusing on small things, little things, little techniques, focusing on those every day. For me, in high school, you can get away with a lot of not really good technique.... Now, being at the college level, you can’t just get away with athleticism. (I plan to) focus on working on overall technique and knowing what I like to do.”
The coach added Woodworth has the tools to develop into a top-level wrestler.
“What he has right now is an ability to score when he wants to,” Azure said. “With his confidence, that can get him here.”