SWEET HOME — Husky wrestling coach Steve Thorpe is glad to be home after a week at the United World Wrestling senior championships in Budapest, Hungary.
But, he added, it was an amazing adventure, paid for by USA Wrestling in recognition of his earning the President’s Award presented recently by Bruce Baumgartner, one of the most decorated American wrestlers in history, who earned five international titles and 13 world or Olympic medals during his wrestling career.
Thorpe has served as the USA Wrestling’s Oregon chairman for eight years and was recently named chairperson of the National Council of State Chairpersons, representing all 50 states.
“It’s clear that Steve is a great leader and very deserving of this award,” said Tony Black, USA Wrestling’s Director of State Services. “His involvement as a board member is great for Oregon and the west region, and the board is better with him as well.”
During Thorpe’s time leading Oregon’s USA Wrestling community, the number of young people competing in its programs has grown to 8,183, surpassing 8,000 for the first time ever.
“Budapest is beautiful,” said Thorpe, soon to begin his 23rd season as the Huskies' head coach. “I got to see some outstanding wrestlers from all around the world. I was able to attend the world championship in Las Vegas in 2015.”
Budapest has a population of about 1.8 million and is the capital of Hungary. It's one of the top tourist attractions in the world, hosting more than 4 million tourists annually.
Thorpe has traveled to Canada and South Africa, but this was his first trip to Europe.
“We stayed in a very nice area and our hotel overlooked the historic Danube River,” he said. “The hospitality shown us was incredible.”
Thorpe traveled with Derek Sakora, state services director for USA Wrestling.
“I wasn’t traveling as a coach, but I got to learn so much that will be useful for our Sweet Home wrestlers and benefit me as a coach,” Thorpe said.
Thorpe spent a lot of time at the Budapest Arena, but also had time for a tour of the city, Parliament, castles, beautiful buildings and great food.
“I ate goulash for the first time and it was very good,” he said. “I took in as much as I could and enjoyed it all.”
Thorpe said that on Oct. 23, he also was able to observe the country celebrating its 1956 uprising against communism. On the same date in 1989, Hungary was declared a republic.
Thorpe said the competitors took their roles seriously and spectators were enthusiastic.
“Wrestling is a big deal in Europe,” he said. “We are the only country in the world that focuses on folk style wrestling. Everywhere else is focused on Greco Roman and freestyle.”
In addition to spending time with Oregon wrestling great Joe Russell, Thorpe had the opportunity to talk with wrestling legend Dan Gable.
At Iowa State, Gable compiled a record of 117 wins against only one loss. He is a gold medalist at the 1972 Olympic Games — winning six matches without allowing his opponents to score a single point — the 1971 world championships and the 1971 Pan American Games.
He went on to coach at the University of Iowa, where his teams compiled 355 dual meet wins, against only 21 losses and five ties. His Hawkeye teams won 21 Big Ten championships and 17 NCAA Division I titles.
Although Thorpe said the adventure “was absolutely incredible,” he is glad to be home.
“I get to come back to the USA,” Thorpe said. “Some of the wrestlers had to go back to their home countries. The USA is the greatest country in the world and I appreciate it more and more.”
Thorpe said he is grateful for the recognition by USA Wrestling and the opportunity to travel.
“Wrestling has created so many opportunities and has opened so many doors or me,” Thorpe said. “I can never repay the sport of wrestling for what it has done for me.”
Russia won the medal count at the championship, earning 10 gold medals, one silver and one bronze. Japan was second with five gold, one silver and four bronze medals and the USA was third with four gold, three silver and five bronze medals.