By CASEY OLSON
Kyle Bressler wasn’t used to losing wrestling matches.
During his four-year career at Decatur High School, Bressler finished with a record of 117-6 with 70 pins. He won a pair of state championships his final two seasons and finished 40-0 with 26 pins as a senior.
So when the 184-pounder finished his freshman season at Oregon State University with a 5-17 record two years ago, you knew that something had to give.
A lot of people would have just given up, but that’s not Bressler’s style. The current Oregon State junior decided to work harder and get better, which is exactly what happened last year.
Bressler was one of six Oregon State wrestlers to qualify for last year’s NCAA Division I National Wrestling Championships in Auburn Hills, Mich.
Going into the 2006-07 season, the expectations for Bressler weren’t put on a national scale. After the disappointing freshman year, in which he only had one pin, his confidence and his thoughts of himself weren’t exactly positive.
“I just felt like I couldn’t compete on this level,” Bressler said on OSUBeavers.com.
Bressler would beat himself up after a loss and tell himself he “wasn’t very good.”
The last two seasons have been different stories. Bressler’s confidence has grown, thanks to the help of new coaches, a new team attitude and new goals, which were to win the Pacific-10 championship and to be national champions.
“After a tough loss, the coaches would give me lots of feedback and they told me that they believed in me, which translated to me believing in myself,” Bressler said. “The coaches really helped me realize that I could compete with anybody, and they made me start to believe in myself.”
“Kyle had a tough freshman year and he needed to go out and have some success right away and build on that success as the year went on,” said second-year OSU head coach Jim Zalesky.
He also talked about how he entered this season with “a positive attitude in practice and that he really wanted to have a good year.”
Bressler finished last season with 19 wins and placed third at the Pacific-10 Championships at 184 pounds. The Beavers won their first Pac-10 team title in over a decade and finished 17-2 in dual meets.
Bressler has advice for youngsters and other athletes that doubt their athletic abilities.
“You have to believe in yourself,” Bressler said. “Stick with it and roll with the punches … If you work hard, then confidence will come, and success will soon follow.”
In the early part of this season, Bressler is currently 4-3 and the Beavers are 5-1 with a 3-1 record in the Pac-10 Conference.
Other Federal Way school district grads currently competing in college:
Eric Johnson — The Decatur graduate is currently swimming at the University of Wisconsin as a junior. At Wisconsin, Johnson compiled the top 100-yard breaststroke (55.41) and 200-yard breastroke (2.03.41) of any Badger in the fall season at the Texas Invitational in the fall. Last year, Johnson earned a 28th-place finish in the 200 breaststroke (2:01.42), a 19th-place finish in the 200-yard medley relay (1:29.05), a 33rd-place finish in the 100-yard breaststroke (54.71) and a 21st-place finish in the 400-yard medley relay (3:16.25) at the NCAA Championships
Erich Matulic — Decatur grad Erich Matulic is currently competing in his junior season on the University of Florida swim team. Matulic is a long-distance freestyler. He has a career-best time of 16:46.99 in the 1,500 freestyle.
Jon Hiett — The Todd Beamer grad is swimming his sophomore season at Auburn University in Alabama. The breaststroker won a pair of Class 4A state titles his senior season at Beamer in the 100 breast and 200 individual medley. Last year at Auburn, Hiett swam the breaststroke leg for the 17th-place 400 medley relay team at the U.S. Senior National Championships.
Seamus Alger — The Decatur grad is swimming his sophomore year at the University of Utah. Last year he placed fifth in the 200 fly (1:51.42), sixth in the 400 IM (4:01.01) and 16th in the 200 IM (1:54.58) at the Mountain West Championships and was named All-MWC in the 200 IM and 200 fly.
Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, firstname.lastname@example.org