Following ‘The Bull’ | Community sports feature

World Champ, Olympian brings life skills to mat in Sammamish for ninth year

Matt Iwicki has worked with more than a few wrestling experts during his time on the mat.

The Eastside Catholic rising junior became only the second wrestler in school history to win a state title in 2013, and has a laundry list of championships and awards from club tournaments around the country.

But nothing compares to getting on the mat with World Champion and Olympic Silver Medalist Sammie Henson, known in wrestling circles by his fitting nickname: The Bull.

“He is just a solid guy and a great wrestler,” Iwicki said. “It is really cool, because he has a similar body type.”

Iwicki was one of around 70 youngsters from around the area at Skyline High School this week for a wrestling camp with Henson, some of the collegians he coaches at Missouri and a traveling group of high school wrestlers from his home state and other stops along the way who serve as the walking, talking examples of his philosophies.

For local wrestlers, the camp was a chance to interact with a world class competitor in Henson and for the group he brought along, it is a path to even more.

Drew Ditter, a 15-year-old rising sophomore from Henson’s hometown of St. Charles, Mo. and state placer in his weight class, is on his second tour with Henson this summer. His grandfather was a coach of Henson’s years ago and after the two connected through a local camp, he jumped at the opportunity to travel the country and wrestle for two-plus weeks.

“We just clicked,” he said. “He is hard-nosed, but he is a really good guy.”

Henson said while the camps are a chance to bring skills and techniques to the mat, it is his philosophy of “consistency wins,” he wants the kids to take away. His group of camp leaders exemplifies the mantra, getting in a pre-camp workout each day before handling two sessions of youth campers and maintaining a constant focus on physical, psychological and emotional wellness.

“It’s an all-around experience,” Henson said. “We’re not always going to be perfect, but we’re going to do the right things.”

Henson said he is making his ninth trip to Sammamish for the camp, after connecting with Skyline wrestling coach Gus Kiss through USA Wrestling when he was still competing. For Kiss, there is simply no substitute for Henson’s experiences in wrestling and pedigree in the sport, which includes medals at the US Open, Pan Am Games, Goodwill Games, World Cup, World Championships and Olympic Games.

“You don’t become a world champ overnight,” he said. “Having the kids exposed to that next level is key and very beneficial.”

Kiss will send one of his wrestlers with Henson in Joseph DeMatteo, a rising senior who made the state tournament at 126 pounds last season. Iwicki will join him for the camps in California and his father said after watching Henson interact with campers and based on his wealth of experience as a coach and mentor, the choice to send his son was an easy one.

“Sammie has been dealing with young men for a long time,” he said. “If he can deal with college freshmen, he can certainly deal with a 16-year-old.”