Growing up on the mat
Truckee High wrestler Buck Claesson ruled the 130-pound weight class his senior year, scrapping and pinning his way to a 44-1 record and earning a spot on the North Idaho College roster next season.
“It was a real joy watching a wrestler have that kind of a season,” said 20-year Wolverine wrestling coach Ron Curtis. “I’ve never had a wrestler be as dominating as Buck was this last year. It was like a dream come true to see him blossom the way he did.”
But Claesson’s senior blooming came against 130-pounders, give-or-take a couple pounds. One day at baseball practice this spring, he was reminded why weight classes are so important in wrestling.
“I wrestled Buck myself once,” Truckee baseball coach Mike Ellis said. “I pinned him down. But look at the size of me. I got 100 pounds on him.”
Actually, Ellis’ 220-pound frame outweighs Claesson’s by 90, which is far more of a discrepancy than any wrestler will ever face. But that still doesn’t revoke Ellis’ bragging rights.
Matched up against wrestlers in his weight class, though, Claesson is a force to reckon with. And with the success he’s had ” collecting more than 100 takedowns his senior year and twice winning the state title, as well as the Northern Nevada Officials Association Sportsmanship Award ” one might think he’d be cocky. He’s not.
“There’s always room for improvement,” Claesson said. “Wrestling is a very humbling sport. You think you’re on top and then you lose. You’ve just got to keep working harder because you know there’s always someone better than you.”
At North Idaho College, the crowned national Junior College Athletic Association Region 18 title-holder, Claesson is bound to face some stiff competition.
Coach Curtis is sure of it.
“I’ve seen a lot of j.c. programs, and [North Idaho’s] is a top-notch program,” said Curtis, Claesson’s coach of eight years. “The first year, Buck will be learning that the level of college wrestling is a higher notch. But I don’t worry. With his attributes he’ll be able to adapt. He’ll do well.”
Claesson’s primary attributes, according to Curtis, are his explosiveness and pound-for-pound strength, as well as his “dominance on his feet” and ability to escape when in the grasp of other wrestlers. Curtis said that in the past, the source of Claesson’s only weakness was between his ears.
“The mental aspect of the sport would hurt him sometimes,” Curtis said, referring to Claesson’s developing years as a wrestler. “He could beat anybody he’s ever seen. But Buck would be Buck. When he’d lose, he’d lose to himself because he broke down mentally. If a kid would score, he would sort of throw a tantrum and give up for a while, then get back into it.
“But he has grown up. He’s really matured. The difference between Buck this year and any other year is like night and day. He’s a complete package. I really don’t see any weaknesses right now.”
However, it’s Claesson’s baseball skills that impress coach Ellis. Besides having a swing that reminds him of Pete Rose, Ellis appreciates Claesson’s aggressive style of play.
“[Last year] I’m hitting fungos and Buck’s diving all over the place,” Ellis said. “He’s laying out for me in the outfield in practice, which I love. It jacks me up.”
After the Wolverines lost ace catcher Kyle Adams this season to track and field, Claesson, who had never caught before, stepped up to fill the void position.
“He put the gear on and the kid was blocking everything,” Ellis said. “[Claesson] has got a great future in wrestling, but if that didn’t work out for him, he’s got a great future in baseball if he wanted to play. He’s young and the kid’s got talent.”
But a wrestling future is what Claesson has planned on for a long time.
“I always knew it would happen, since like sixth grade,” Claesson said about wrestling in college. “I just wanted to work hard and I figured it would come, and it did. I’m pretty confident. I’m looking forward to it.”
Although Curtis is happy about Claesson moving on, bidding farewell to the matured wrestler, who basically ran the practices like an assistant coach, is tough.
“I feel like a father to him at times,” Curtis said. “It’s sad to see him go because he was so good for the program. He’ll definitely be missed.”