Camas High School graduate Caleb Malychewski still has a soft spot in his heart for baseball, but wrestling is what gets his blood pumping at Pacific University, in Forest Grove, Ore.
“In baseball, there’s lots of politics on who plays. In wrestling, you beat the guys in your weight class and you get to go to the varsity level. There’s no question about it,” Malychewski said. “There’s a saying that ‘once you have wrestled, everything else in life is easier.’ I think there’s a lot of truth to that.
“You can fail seven out of 10 times in baseball and still be successful. But in wrestling, you only got seven minutes on the mat. One or two mistakes and you’re done. The matches always seem to come down to one takedown or escape,” he added. “There’s nothing like getting your hand raised at the end of a match after all the hard work that went into it. Every day, it’s a grind. That’s what I love about wrestling.”
Something clicked for Malychewski on the wrestling mat this winter. After losing in the opener, the junior won 14 matches in a row and compiled a season record of 30-8. He is the first 30-match winner for Pacific in five years. Of those 30 victories, 17 have come by major decision or better.
“I’ve always been a good defensive wrestler. This year has been about improving my offensive attack, getting those shots and takedowns and defending those shots and takedowns,” Malychewski said. “I used to pace myself in wrestling, but now I’m going 100 percent all of the time. The pain that comes from losing a match is way worse than the pain you get in practice. I can always go harder.”
Malychewski achieved a new milestone at the West Regional Championships March 2, in Minneapolis. The 21-year-old defeated LaQuan Hightower, of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, 7-1 and Matt Rieckoff, of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 3-1 to qualify for the NCAA Division III National Wrestling Championships Friday and Saturday, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Mitchell Hagen, of St. John’s, Minn., pinned Malychewski in the 184-pound West Regional championship match.
“Once I won that semifinal match, it was a big relief. I knew I was going to nationals,” Malychewski said. “That final was such a close match. If I get to wrestle that guy again at nationals, I’ll be ready.”
Malychewski dedicated his performance to his parents, Gary and Mari, who were both in attendance. As the only Pacific Boxer competing in the national tournament, Malychewski plans on going the extra mile for his coaches and teammates.
“This weekend is all about Boxer pride. I want to go in there and show all the other schools, coaches in wrestlers that I’m a competitor and I don’t give up,” he said. “If you win two before you lose two, you place. That’s my main goal, but my ultimate goal is to get into that top three.”
After attempting to wrestle and play baseball during his freshmen season, Malychewski fully embraced the wrestling culture at Pacific.
“I don’t regret [giving up baseball], whatsoever,” he said. “I’ve developed great relationships with these wrestlers. We’ve become like brothers.”
Concentrating on just one sport gave Malychewski more time to focus on school. He is working on a kinesiology degree and applying those tools to wrestling.
“My exercise physiology class helped me a lot with wrestling. It was all about how your body gets energy,” Malychewski said. “Writing and history classes are cool, but learning how the body works seems more applicable in life.”
Malychewski capped off his high school wrestling career by winning a sixth place medal at the state tournament in 2009. He said he still wears that Papermaker sweatshirt when he goes out and cuts weight. He also came back to Camas over Christmas break and worked out with the Papermakers during their wrestling practice.
“Any time I can go back to Camas, it’s a blessing,” Malychewski said. “It’s great having all the support from my family, friends and fellow coaches in both baseball and wrestling.”
Malychewski hopes to obtain a job in the medical field, get married and have children.
“There will always be a place in my heart for baseball and wrestling,” he said.
He also has advice for upcoming Camas graduates.
“Work hard at sports and work hard at your studies, but don’t forget to have fun,” Malychewski said. “There are a lot of great friends to be made and a lot of great accomplishments to be done in college.”