Royal Valley High School's Karsen Smith (shown above, left) and Washburn Rural High School's Dominic Holthaus (right) hit the mat during practice at the fourth-annual Royal Valley Medalist Wrestling Camp.

Royal Valley wrestlers benefit from team camp experiences


Even when things are supposed to be more laid back, the Royal Valley wrestling team can’t seem to catch a break. After dealing with their fair share of injuries this past winter, the Panthers saw three more varsity wrestlers (Blake Garrison, Noah Hart and Zack Lux) sidelined through the offseason recently.

Despite that, coach Jason Puderbaugh said he feels the team is making good progress this summer, maybe the best since he’s been leading the wrestling team at Royal Valley.

“We had a great group go to the team camp this year, which was a big improvement from past years. This time, we got a lot of high school kids involved and a few freshmen, so that was exciting getting that involvement from our high school kids, especially our younger ones,” Puderbaugh said.

That team camp Puderbaugh speaks of was one held in Dubuque, Iowa recently and an opportunity that he actually prioritized over his own Medalist camp for his wrestlers this summer.

Puderbaugh noted he tried to make the RV camp more accessible to Panther wrestlers by using local clinicians and cutting down the number of days and costs. In the end, that didn’t help the attendance this year, but he said his wrestlers who were there got a lot of good out of it and some more practice at the least.

Still, the Royal Valley Medalist Camp was second fiddle to the “Iron Sharpens Iron” camp that nine RV wrestlers attended in the month of June.

The four-day camp was an intensive affair with two duals and two technique sessions every day and offered the chance for the Panthers to work with clinicians like Olympic champions Jake Varner (former Iowa State wrestler) and Jordan Burroughs (former Nebraska wrestler).

“By going to this camp, I knew they were going to get exposure to a lot more that wrestling has to offer as far as competition, kids throughout the country, different coaches throughout the country, different experience with clinicians and the excitement that comes along with that,” Puderbaugh said.

Seeing the aforementioned Varner and Burroughs, two young guys who the wrestlers may look up to, is something that Puderbaugh hopes makes his athletes bigger fans of the sport, getting the chance to work with some contemporary role models. Of course, they weren’t the only ones setting an example for the Panthers at the Iowa camp.

As a motivating factor to get more involvement, Puderbaugh himself signed up to compete in the “Rumble by the River” tournament that closed out the camp experience and he felt that had a positive impact on his wrestlers, seeing their coach practice what he preaches in terms of being disciplined in order to cut weight and working out alongside his wrestlers for the tournament.

“They got to see me not just talking the talk as a coach, but walking the walk right there in front of them,” Puderbaugh said. “Every coach has walked the walk because we did it back in our day, but not every kid gets to experience seeing their coach do it in the moment.”

In the long term, Puderaugh said he hopes that pushes his kids to strive for more, like it did in the short term for three Panther wrestlers (Jacob Box, Karsen Smith and Cael Puderbaugh) who medaled at the Iowa tournament.

“I thought it went really well. The team camp was a good experience. I thought we had a good number of kids and they went down there and they learned a lot,” Puderbaugh said.

Wrestlers who took part in the ISI team camp in Iowa were Bryce Garrison, Geoffrey Cain, Karsen Smith, Dalton Ware, Jacob Box, Jerry Coan, Cael Puderbaugh, Caden Puderbaugh and Bradlee Thompson.

Other opportunities, like the TOP City wrestling league (where both Hart and Lux suffered their injuries) may not have worked out as well, but Puderbaugh noted his wrestlers are getting much of what he hoped for out of the summer months.

The Panthers are seeing the effort it takes to succeed through summer weights and conditioning, while also gaining valuable mat time and new techniques along the way in camps.

If they choose, Puderbaugh noted his wrestlers’ progress doesn’t have to stop there either. The Sunflower State Games wrestling competition is coming up in July, which is an event the coach highly encourages because of exposure and proximity, while Puderbaugh also noted he is willing to help any interested athletes keep honing their skills in the fall through other tournaments and open gym time.

From talking to his wrestlers over the summer, Puderbaugh said he feels there are some who will take him up on that offer. With all the additional strides already made by the Panthers in the month of June, the coach can’t help but have a positive outlook for the coming season.

“I think we’re headed in the right direction if I was to look at this summer and compare it to past summers,” Puderbaugh said. “We’ve got a good group of freshmen and sophomores who are willing to put in that extra mat time in the offseason, a little bit more so than previous years.”

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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