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The Drill: West's Ashworth pushes on in a tough sport

Damon Ashworth, a former Missouri high school state champion, has high goals as a freshman wrestler at Minnesota West Community and Technical College.

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Minnesota West Bluejays wrestler Damon Ashworth tightens his grip on Northland Community College wrestler Gabe Ryappy in the 165-pound weight class during a triangular meet Thursday night in Worthington. Tim Middagh / The Globe

WORTHINGTON -- Wrestling is a grueling sport requiring a great deal of mental and physical toughness, and that is in part why many high school wrestlers talented enough to continue their careers in college choose to hang up their singlets. Some might call it burnout.

But Damon Ashworth, who grew up in Excelsior Springs, Mo., and is now a freshman at Minnesota West Community and Technical College , is still going strong. A former high school state champion, Ashworth -- who typically wrestles in the 165-pound category -- accepts the hard workouts, the nutritional requirements, and the physical pounding of the sport so that he can continue to sharpen his skills.

Damon Ashworth Drill

“I wasn’t sure, at first, if I was going to wrestle in college, but after my senior season I decided I probably wanted to stick with it,” he said, looking back. “And I was looking at a lot of different schools, from all areas and ranges and levels. But I knew that something like a tech school was probably more something I would probably do well in. I’m in the electrician program at the Jackson campus, and Coach (Randy) Baker, I’d heard a lot of great things about him as a coach. I kind of looked into it online and I’d seen some of his accomplishments. He told me he had a good class of guys coming in.”

Ashworth is doing very well on the college mat thus far, and he enjoys working with Baker, who before coming to Minnesota West coached several high school wrestlers to state championships. Ashworth’s goals are lofty. He hopes to become a JUCO All-American and, if all goes well, a national champion, too.

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He began in wrestling when he was 8 years old.

“At first, I wasn’t that good at it, but over time you hate it but you learn to love it. In high school, I don’t remember exactly what my record was, but I think it was close to 150 wins and, maybe, around 40 losses,” he said.

Ashworth’s father, Jacob, is an iron worker, and a major influence on his son’s life. Of course, you don’t have to be an iron worker’s son to be an exceptional wrestler, but it certainly can’t hurt.

This week’s Globe Drill subject , the young Ashworth agreed to talk about his life and wrestling career shortly before Minnesota West ’s Thanksgiving vacation began. The video can be seen online at www.dglobe.com . Here’s a sample of the interview:

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QUESTION: You earned a state individual wrestling championship in high school. What was that like?

ANSWER: “Winning the state tournament my junior year was pretty amazing. I had, like 10 seconds remaining in the match and I was actually down by three points. So just the way I won it was really crazy. The end of my match got posted on TrackWrestling and my Instagram account, so that was really cool. The feeling, it was pretty awesome.”

QUESTION: What is it like wrestling for Coach Baker, whose reputation has always been that he demands a lot from his wrestlers?

ANSWER: “ Wrestling for Coach Baker, I’m still pretty new to it, but I can definitely tell that he’s not going to let up on us. He’s gonna push us hard, and that’s what you need, really.”

QUESTION: Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.

ANSWER: “I’m a really big dog lover. I have a Husky at home that I’m very excited to see. I’m finally going to go home for the first time … to see him, since I got up here. So … I’ve talked to him on face time, but it’s not the same. He looks in the phone and he’s confused.”

Related Topics: WRESTLINGTHE DRILL
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