Lyons junior Oran Huff prepares for the unpredictability of the white waters that he’ll spear through on a kayak. Then he’ll adjust.
The rhythm of the frothy waters can change by day and differ from the Danube River in Europe to the Arkansas or Colorado. Maneuvering on the fly in these settings can separate you from the pack.
Staring up at an audience of thousands, Huff remembered this truth at the state wrestling final at the Pepsi Center in February.
“You’re never going to be able to make your Plan A,” he said. “White water is constantly changing, a lot like a wrestling partner. He’s never going to do exactly what you want to do.”
Huff beat Centauri’s Eyan Chavez by a 5-3 decision in last year’s Class 2A 126-pound title. As part of it, a late takedown by Huff in the opening period swung momentum in his favor. Then in the third, he responded to Chavez’s reversal with one of his own to all-but clinch.
“If you asked me last year if I could do this, I would have said I couldn’t,” Huff told BoCoPreps that night. “It’s hard work and never doubting yourself … I came out there tonight with full confidence.”
His words were commonplace for an athlete who’s risen to the top. The countless hours of hard work put in — that certain drive that fuels an athlete — are often the things remembered quickest in the winner’s circle.
And in Huff’s case, all were more than warranted.
His wrestling coach at Lyons, Brandon Lohr, describes Huff as one of those kids who just seem to be good at whatever they fall into. He noted, Huff, the wrestler, picked up the sport only a few years back. And Huff, the kayaker, is world-class.
“I think as far as kayaking and wrestling it’s just two sports he fell in love with,” Lohr said. “And when he’s passionate about something, he just gives 110 percent.”
Since topping the high school wrestling scene, Huff continued his travels on the water. Over the summer, he won a U16 race as part of the European Canoe Association Cup in Augsburg, Germany — his favorite white-water spot, he said. His talent in the kayak has sent him all over Europe, to places like Bratislava (Slovakia), Krakow (Poland) and Prague (Czech Republic).
When he returned home, Huff quickly got back to wrestling. He competed at tournaments from the Cosmic Clash, in which he wrestled under blacklight and took second, to the Freak Show and Monster Match, where he finished both in fifth.
Asked about the transition between the two sports, Huff called them a near perfect match.
“Great for cross training,” he said, pointing to the hips, chest, shoulders as muscle groups that are primary in both. “Using your entire body and being conscious of it and being reactive and changing game plans are all very similar.”
Said Lohr: “He’s already leaps and bounds from where he was last year. … He was over in Europe doing competitions for kayaking all summer, but beside that, that kid has been in the room every day since the end of the season.”
Huff will return to 126s in hopes of defending his crown this winter.