Joel Sissel stands out in a crowd. Whether walking the fourth-grade hallway of Siuslaw Elementary School or while making his way around the mats during the Oregon Wrestling Association’s freestyle and Greco competition in Roseburg last weekend (May 6).
And while it’s his gold-colored hair that may distinguish him in the school hallways, it’s the 10-year-old's historic triple crown achievement of sweeping the OWA’s Folk, Freestyle and Greco competitions that have made him a standout in wrestling circles.
According to coach Stecher Buss, he’s believed to be the first wrestler in Siuslaw history — at any level — to claim the championship in all three wrestling styles.
“I talked with (Siuslaw High School coach) Neil Wartnik about it, and neither of us can recall anyone getting a triple crown,” said Buss. “So it’s a pretty big deal.”
Sissel, who wrestles in th 103-pound bracket, first won the Folk-style title last January at the Oregon Classic, where he competed against wrestlers from all over the Northwest, pitting him against wrestlers from as far away as Washington, Idaho and California.
“Joel understands the basic principle of wrestling hard and coming out on top,” said Buss. “He doesn’t complicate things.”
Sissel said his approach to wrestling in any format is a simple one.
“I just like getting physical with people,” he said, a statement that seems to contradict his easy-going nature.
“On the mats, Joel is a beast. he goes after it,” said Buss.
Whatever Sissel attributes to his success, the fourth grader went from not placing at all last season to winning every match during last weekend’s OWA Freestyle and Greco divisions by either a technical fall (ahead by 10 points) or an outright pin.
In the Greco championship, Sissel faced defending champion Jared Scott.
“He was the guy to beat,” said Sissel.
Things didn’t start out well in the opening rounds against Scott, who got a takedown on Sissel for a 2-0 lead in the second round.
But Sissel went into “beast mode,” holding Scott scoreless for the remainder of the match while piling on 12 points to win the title by technical fall, 12-2.
With summer vacation on the horizon, does Sissel plan to relax?
“There are wrestling camps this summer, so I’ll be busy,” said Sissel.
Buss echoed that sentiment with some words of wisdom.
“Summer and fall wrestlers make winter winners,” said Buss. “It’s going to be exciting to see what Joel does from here.”
(Note: The story has been corrected from the original posting, which described Sissel as being in the sixth grade; he is a fourth grader. Siuslaw News regrets the error.)