Huff picked to wrestle on Russian mats this summer

Siuslaw junior Richard Huff placed second in the Oregon State Junior Freestyle wrestling competition in Cottage Grove on April 22, then went on to place third in the Oregon Junior Greco-Style competition the next day — high achievements in two fields of the nation’s best wrestlers from all classifications.

“It was literally some of the best competition in the nation, wrestling each other regardless of classification,” said Siuslaw wrestling coach Neil Wartnik. “Ricky mowed through the competition on his way to the top two and three.”

In the freestyle competition, Huff opened the 120-pound competition with a 17-6 win by technical fall over Gavin Sherrill, then beat Jacob Whitehead of Silverton High School in just 2:13 by fall.

That advanced Huff into the championship round against 6A state champion Hunter Sparks of Roseburg.

“Richard met his match there,” said Wartnik. “He took some risks that he couldn’t capitalize on.”

Huff lost 10-0 for second place overall.

The next day, he returned to the mats for the Greco-Style competition, a style Huff hadn’t competed in since he was 10 years old.

“It was well out of his comfort zone,” Wartnik said. “The rules are very different and many of the moves that work in freestyle don’t work to your advantage in Greco.”

For example, wrestlers aren’t allowed to lunge at an opponent’s legs in Greco-style wrestling as you can in freestyle.

Still, Huff managed to battle back from an early loss and into consolation, where he faced Sparks once again but fell short — but still high enough to finish third in the 120-pound division.

Huff’s performance this season has qualified him for the Junior Nationals in Fargo, N.D. this summer.

Assuming he isn’t in Russia.

“Richard is wrestling at the level of some of Siuslaw’s very best wrestlers,” said Wartnik. “Nicky Lutz, David Mann, Jeremy Bernhardt — and people have taken notice.”

Among those who have taken notice is the International Wrestling Cultural Exchange Program, which invited Huff to travel to Russia this summer for 11 days of wrestling against opponents from around the world.

“It’s going to be an amazing experience,” Wartnik said of Huff. “He’s a truly quality person that has worked very hard and is reaping the benefits of that hard work.”