COOS BAY — The two couldn’t be much different. One is small and energetic and the other is big and more calculated.
One darts in and out of shots and sprawls as if on ice, the other is firmly planted and moves as he pleases, not as he’s coerced.
Francisco “Pancho” Barrera, Southwestern Oregon Community College’s fourth-ranked 125-pounder, never stops moving at practice, calling out warmups. Tanner Harvey, SWOCC’s top-ranked 184-pounder, is quieter, but no less intense in his preparation.
“They’re definitely very different,” Lakers coach Adam Whitlatch said. “Pancho’s pretty quiet, too, really but he has an intensity. He gets really jacked. Tanner’s not one that you’re not gonna go smack him before a match and get him all excited. He’s pretty low key.”
Similar things guide these young men. Wrestling exists for its competition and its inherent lessons, but it isn’t the peak of the mountain.
Barrera, a redshirt sophomore from Ontario, Oregon, joined the Fire Science/EMT program, which he called “rigorous,” and immediately saw similarities.
Being an EMT is a stressful situation, where decisive action is required in sensitive situations. So, too, is wrestling, in a way. Any body movement can result in your own peril, so you must keep conscious of two bodies while keeping a free mind. With decisive action, of course.
“You’re put in stressful situations, high-intensity situations where your adrenaline gets going,” Barrera said. “You have to learn how to control that. ‘Cause too much adrenaline, can lead to making mistakes.
“It trains my mind to just stay calm and trust in your training. And as long as you’ve been doing that, training hard — training gives you the confidence to go do what you do.”
Barrera is ranked fifth in NJCAA, but he also competes at the most competitive weight class in the region. Three members of the West Region are ranked in the top six. DeVaugn Sapien of Clakamas is third and North Idaho’s Esco Walker is sixth.
It’s a tough road to qualify for the national tournament, but Barrera is certainly capable of doing it.
“I would be lying to you to tell you I don’t have any expectations,” he said. “I’m going to regionals, I’m looking to take it. I’m going to nationals. I’m looking to take that as well. But really, at the end of the day, I’m going to go and I’m going to wrestle. And expectations, they don’t really mean anything, you know?
“If I wrestle tough with my mind clear, I can do it.”
From tiny Lowell, Oregon, Harvey grew up in a logging family and took up the craft himself.
“Tanner embraces anything that is hard,” Whitlatch said. “Tanner likes things that are hard. He likes working hard. He’s a logger. He’s grown up working hard in the woods and doing hard things in his life. So wrestling is just another hard thing that Tanner does. He just does things that are hard. To him, that’s enjoyable and has value in it. And that’s special. He finds value in things that other people are too difficult to do.”
But Harvey isn’t complex about the hard things he does. He said he wrestles because he loves it, simply. Several Division I programs have contacted the barrel-chested Harvey, though a decision is far from made.
The approach to this weekend’s regional tournament, and probably the national tournament a week and a half after, is therefore a simple one.
“Just gonna go in there and try my best and hope I win,” Harvey said.
But that doesn’t mean there won’t be any disappointment with an early departure.
Harvey enters as the No. 1 ranked 184-pounder in the NJCAA, a by-product of liking to do hard things. But he only has this year, as he’ll graduate this spring with a transfer degree and look to study either business or aeronautics.
“I would definitely be disappointed if I lost,” Harvey said. “Like you said, No. 1 guy losing at the regional tournament wouldn’t be the greatest.”
“I think the one thing with Tanner is he’s pretty humble,” Whitlatch added.
The NJCAA West Region Championships start at 10 a.m. on Sunday in Oregon City.