Osos Wrestling Camp is all about the kids

2014-07-29T20:00:00Z 2014-07-30T00:39:05Z Osos Wrestling Camp is all about the kidsBy JOHN LETASKY jletasky@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

The Osos Wrestling Camp started five years ago and Gabe Daigneau hasn't missed it.

Daigneau, who weighs 85 pounds and will enter seventh grade at Castle Rock Middle School this fall, thoroughly enjoys learning techniques from counselors Matt McDonough, Derek St. John and Mike Evans, all of whom have starred on the mats at the University of Iowa.

"My favorite memory is getting to meet all the Iowa people," Daigneau said Monday at Orchard Elementary School as the three-day camp began. "I watched them on TV and they were really good and when I met them in person I was really excited."

Daigneau said some of the instruction he has received over the past five years includes: "You need to be tough and when you wrestle you need to stay in your stance and you need to keep good position." 

Billings West coach and camp director Jeremy Hernandez said approximately 120 kids enrolled in the camp. Hernandez said besides Billings wrestlers,participants came from other communities in Montana plus from Wyoming, North Dakota and Canada.

A Billings native, Hernandez is a 1994 West graduate who was a three-time state champion. He explained the importance of offering a camp of this caliber to the region's youth.

"It's just hard. When I was growing up, we didn't have camps like this in Billings. To have one in my hometown is good," Hernandez said. "My son (Keyan) is at this camp and his buddies and it exposes them to more wrestling. 

"It's awesome. I love it. It's good for these guys to come here and learn from some of the best in the country. I didn't know what the NCAA's and DI wrestling was when I was a young kid. When these guys see it, they are exposed to it and say, 'Maybe I'll be a DI champ or wrestle at a national college.' "

McDonough, a 2013 Iowa graduate and two-time NCAA champion and three-time All-American, was a counselor during the first year of the camp and keeps on coming back. He recently won a bronze medal at the University World Championships in Pecs, Hungary, at 125.5 pounds for his first international hardware. He is concentrating on becoming an Olympian and focusing on training, but McDonough plans on coming back to the Magic City next year for the Osos Camp.

"I don't think this is a camp we plan on cutting short anytime soon," he said. "Our goal is to build this camp every year and bring good wrestling to the youth of the area through an intense three-day Iowa-style wrestling camp."

Evans, who was a 174-pound junior for the Hawkeyes last season and a two-time NCAA All-American, has been at the camp the past four years. He said he has "a second family out here" in Billings.

Working as a counselor benefits his career, Evans said. 

"To be honest with you, camps are one of those things when you do camps you think about what you are teaching and what you have to focus on," he said. "You also learn while you are teaching and you see guys make mistakes and you think how you can avoid them."

St. John, the 2013 NCAA champion at 157 pounds and the 18th four-time All-American in Iowa history, recently joined North Dakota State as an assistant wrestling coach. While he is looking forward to coaching the likes of former Billings Skyview star and current Bison 141-pounder Clay Cathey and eventually becoming a head coach, St. John is enjoying his time in Billings.

St. John is in his second year as a counselor at the Osos Camp and said the goal is to "go with the flow so the kids have fun and learn a couple things and enjoy their experience at the camp. That's the biggest thing."

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