Chris Pendleton’s high school wrestling team was participating at a camp in Reno, Nevada.
There, the 145-pound California State champion impressed Oklahoma State coach John Smith.
“We would’ve never found him if we weren’t at that camp,” Smith said. “We took a chance on him and when he came to Stillwater, he fell in love with it.”
Twenty years, two NCAA championships and three All-Americans later, Pendleton is returning to Stillwater as the first-year coach of Oregon State’s wrestling program.
Pendleton began his collegiate career when injuries at his weight class thrust him into the starting lineup as a freshman. He went 15-7.
Then as a sophomore, he bulked up to 174 pounds and his record followed suit with a record of 63-3 as he cruised to national titles.
“He flourished athletically like we’d never seen,” Smith said. “He was a ball of fun for us.”
Pendleton said he knows what Smith’s program represents on a national level and he knows this Sunday’s matchup will be challenging for his team.
The Beavers have never defeated the Cowboys. When the two teams last met in 2004, Oklahoma State routed Oregon State 38-6.
But Pendleton is excited to coach on the opposite side of the man who helped reach the highest level of success.
“I’m craving opportunities like this, competing against some of the best in the country,” Pendleton said. “I expect my guys to compete no matter who’s wearing the singlet and no matter what their ranking is.”