HERMISTON — There are so many things that Sam Cadenas still doesn’t know about wrestling, but there is one thing his opponents should remember — what he does know can hurt you.
The Hermiston sophomore, who sports a 32-7 record heading into Saturday’s 3A Region 4 tournament at Rogers High School in Spokane, is just in his second of wrestling.
He showed up in the wrestling room last winter, raw but willing to learn.
“We started with the basics,” Hermiston wrestling coach Kyle Larson said. “We preach fundamentals at all levels. He is such a good athlete and he learns fast. You show him something once, and he picks it up.”
Cadenas, ranked No. 3 at 220 pounds in the latest 3A rankings, will open the regional tournament against Daniel Tausa of Shelton. He is hoping for a rematch against Yelm’s Cameron Dubose, who beat him by two points at the Gut Check tournament in January. The two would meet if both made the finals.
“He is doing phenomenal for being a second-year guy,” Larson said. “Sam is a great kid, very respectful and a leader on this team. Kids look up to him. Kids need to look up to Sam. He leads by example. He has brought a lot of positivity to the whole squad.”
A whole new world
Cadenas comes from a family of soccer players. His older brothers Pedro, 25, Cesar, 22, and Sinai, 18, all played at Hermiston High School.
Cadenas also plays soccer (he’s a striker), but he expanded his athletic talents to include football and wrestling.
“The coaches said wrestling is good for football, and that’s what I want to focus on in the future,” Cadenas said. “Wrestling is good for soccer too. My stamina is good, which allows me to focus on the ball and what it takes to score.”
Larson also believes football and wrestling go hand in hand.
“It’s all about attitude,” Larson said. “You have to have a pretty pissed off attitude on the football field — they are trying to take your head off. You have that killer instinct, you recognize when someone is tired and you attack.”
Once Cadenas started to get a feel for wrestling, he was hooked.
“I really enjoy wrestling, I didn’t think I would,” he said. “My freshman year, I didn’t know what I was doing. Honestly, I thought this year would be another learning step like last year.”
There are 32 guys who have lost to Cadenas who wish that were true.
Cadenas cut through the Mid-Columbia Conference like a hot knife through butter, winning all eight of his matches. He pinned five opponents, had one decision, one technical fall, and won his match against Walla Walla by forfeit.
He won a title at the Farm City Invitational, was fifth at Gut Check, and last weekend he won the 3A District 8 wrestling title at 220 pounds.
“I was a little worried,” Cadenas said of district. “The plan was to go in and win, but they said Tyler Dallas (Mt. Spokane) was good.”
Dallas is good, but Cadenas beat him 11-4 for the district title.
Last year, Cadenas competed at the 3A state tournament at 195 pounds. Because of adverse weather conditions, regional tournaments were canceled, resulting in 32-man brackets at state.
Cadenas finished 1-2 at state, but this year the expectations are higher.
“We absolutely expect him to win at regionals,” Larson said. “No hoping or guessing. He is going to perform well. He has a leg attack, and no one can hold him down. He is so strong.”
Cadenas continues to improve each week on the mat. He soaks in everything from his coaches, and implements the moves and techniques in his matches.
He also benefits from working with former Hermiston state champion and Oregon State Pac-12 champ Bob Coleman.
“That is a huge bonus,” Cadenas said. “There are moves I didn’t know that he taught me. He also taught me how to get out of moves I don’t want to be in.”
Wrestling quickly became a family affair for the Cadenases.
His older brothers are a mainstay at his matches, his mom Olga makes sure he eats good meals (he is not a fan of vegetables), and his dad Marcial is learning the sport so he can help his son.
“My brothers are always asking about the rules and why you can’t do certain things,” Cadenas said. “Every sport we have played, our dad taught us. He has never wrestled in his life, but he is catching on and is offering pointers.”
Which Cadenas appreciates as he continues to learn and improve.
“I was not expecting this of myself,” Cadenas said of his success. “There is always a learning curve. I don’t worry about my opponents. I use my instincts and attack when they are weak.”
Spoken like a true wrestler.