Patterson's love and ability for wrestling blossomed quickly

January 29, 1995|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Sun Staff Writer

Dan Gable, the wrestling legend who now coaches at Iowa, said words last fall that Old Mill's Don Patterson will never forget.

"He said if you want to be good at something, you have to love it, and to love it, it has to be fun," Patterson said.

Spending a few hours with Gable before he conducted a clinic at Lock Haven University left Patterson "on cloud nine."

If there was any doubt about how he felt about wrestling, Gable's words removed it.

To Patterson, wrestling is indeed fun.

Until he was in ninth grade, Patterson was clueless about wrestling. Old Mill coach Mike Hampe walked into phys ed class one day and asked for recruits. Patterson stood up.

"I had to chuckle, because my picture of wrestling was that pro stuff," Patterson said.

His picture was distorted. In his first match he was pinned. He has seldom lost since.

"All I've done since is wrestle," he said. "Even summers. Coaches have tried to get me to go out for football, but my focus is on wrestling."

As a senior 189-pounder with a 19-2 record, Patterson's objective is to get his photo on Old Mill's Wall of Fame, reserved for state champions.

Patterson's rise has been meteoric. Most simply don't start wrestling as high school freshmen and finish third in the state two years later, as Patterson did last season at 189 in Class 3A-4A.

There have been a few other exceptions in Hampe's 25 years as a coach. Twins Ken and Kevin Seavey started as sophomores and were first and second, respectively, in the state as seniors. Ron Howard started in ninth grade and was a state champ as a senior.

"But usually, if you don't have junior league experience, this sport is very difficult," Hampe said.

Patterson's lone loss this season to a state foe was to Broadneck heavyweight Arto Vartanian, who outweighed him by pounds.

"I had Don at heavyweight for team points," Hampe said. "But he strained his knee and defaulted, but only because I pulled him off the mat. He didn't want to come."

Vartanian, one of the state's dominant heavyweights, is the only one who has taken Patterson down this season.

"I ran into a wall, just couldn't move him," Patterson said. "I wrestle guys 270 all summer, but then I'm up to 215 myself."

Hampe lists Patterson's strengths as his ability to focus on a task, an aggressive approach to weight room work in which he screams when he lifts and causes everybody else to stop and look, incessant drilling on technique, and supportive parents who have devoted many weekends to wrestling trips.

One of four captains, Patterson is what Hampe calls his "sergeant at arms." Patterson expects his younger teammates to respect Old Mill's wrestling tradition and not to get into trouble that reflects poorly on the team.

"Don takes the job seriously," Hampe said. "He keeps younger kids under control."

Patterson is, Hampe says, the epitome of what Old Mill demands of its captains, leaders on and off the mat.

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