When Cameron Loos pinned his opponent at the state wrestling tournament Feb. 20, Hockinson High School earned its first-ever state wrestling championship.
But this story is less about one big win than about a young man’s determination and focus.
Let’s start with the win: Cameron was down 6-0 in the 220-pound final, when he suffered a split in his chin. As Cameron regrouped, Coach Ralph Bever asked him, “Are we doing it?”
“We’re doing it,” Cameron answered.
“It didn’t matter what the score was,” Bever said later. “He was going to win that match. I was totally relaxed. He had worked so hard.”
The Hockinson High School senior began his wrestling career as a 5-year-old preschooler—scoring a first-place win his first season. He wrestled every year thereafter, except his sophomore year in high school, when he played basketball instead.
In middle school, Cameron’s father, Tom, introduced him to a personal trainer, Jason Pabillano. “I didn’t look to being a state champion or all-state linebacker,” Cameron reflects, citing his two major athletic achievements this year. “That wasn’t even in my head.”
He just kept working out, encouraged by Pabillano, who was also a football trainer. They worked out at the gym, at the field, at the beach.
“He’s the one who showed me what it takes and how to get there,” Cameron said. “He’s definitely the main reason I’m where I’m at today.”
After taking sophomore year off from wrestling, Cameron returned to the mat, a junior, unsure how he would do.
“I didn’t have a lot of confidence,” he recalls. “I just left it on the mat, whatever the outcome might be.”
The outcome last year was second in state. And that whet his appetite to win the championship.
So he talked with Coach Bever and told him he needed to get in the best condition possible. In wrestling, a full match lasts six minutes, and Cameron wanted to be fit enough to keep moving the whole time.
The two came up with a plan. At the turn of the year, they began meeting at the high school track, five nights a week, Bever on his mountain bike, Cameron on foot. Cameron would sprint 100 meters, then jog the corner, sprint 100 meters, then jog the corner. By district competition, they had worked their way up to 2¼ miles—18 sprints.
“He pushed really, really, really hard,” Bever said, marveling at this 18-year-old, 220-pound wrestler running so hard, when everyone else was probably home relaxing. “I’d say ‘How hard are we pushing?,’ And he’d say, ‘We’re going to push real hard tonight, Coach.’”
“When I wanted to quit, I told myself ‘state champion,’ and kept reminding myself,” Cameron said, adding that not a lot of wrestlers run at the heavier weights. “It really motivated me.”
The payoff came at state, in that final match.
Back on the mat, beginning round two, Cameron drew on the mental toughness wrestling had instilled in him.
“Down 6-0, I could have stayed there and figured I was losing—and lose,” he said. “But I just stayed relaxed. I knew I’d be fine, because I could go to a whole other round with my conditioning.”
Shortly into round two, Cameron and his opponent fell onto their backs, and that’s when Cameron bounced up and rolled over his opponent, pinning him with an immovable resolve.
The referee called the match, and Cameron stood up and strode around the ring, victorious.
“What was so nice about the win was he knew he’d paid the price in his heart,” Bever said. “He wasn’t rattled. He was thinking, ‘I’ve got 6 minutes out here. I’ve still got 4 minutes plus.’ You could hear it in his voice—it’s not over till the last whistle blows. That was something he was preparing in himself all year, all last year.”
Although Cameron said his wrestling days are over—he’ll head off next fall to New Mexico State to play football and study business—he believes what he learned from wrestling will stay with him.
“When you’re going through tough times in life—college football will be a lot tougher—I think wrestling will help me,” he said.