DeLeon takes up Nyssa mat legacy

NYSSA – For Bobby DeLeon, Nyssa High School’s new wrestling coach, not much is changing as he takes the helm of the program.

DeLeon, a longtime assistant coach and a counselor for the Nyssa district, said the school’s wrestling program has a long history and a rich tradition of success.

Over the last four years, according to DeLeon, he and Luke Cleaver, Nyssa’s former head wrestling coach, prepared for DeLeon to take over the program.

According to DeLeon, Cleaver’s vision is what made him such a great head coach.

“These have been conversations that we had three to four years ago,” DeLeon said, “he said, ‘hey, one day this is going to be your job.'”

For the last couple of years, Cleaver had been floating the possibility of stepping down to support his daughter Addie, a freshman basketball player this year at Nyssa High School.

Born and raised in Nyssa, DeLeon was a standout wrestler in high school, winning a state title his senior year in 2006. He wrestled for Cleaver, who wrestled for legendary Nyssa wrestling Mel Calhoun, who brought wrestling to the high school in 1969.

According to DeLeon, he will be the program’s sixth head coach.

DeLeon said that since he’s been involved with the program as a coach since 2011, the program’s future is no different than if he were an assistant or head coach.

All along, DeLeon said he and the other coaches have supported Cleaver’s vision. That vision, he said, has incorporated his input and that of the rest of the coaching staff.

Which, he said, makes taking over the program smooth.

“It’s kind of nice,” he said. “It’s like grandma left the recipe. Somebody’s got the cheat sheet.”

Part of that plan this year, DeLeon said, is the coaching staff evolving with kids. One of the activities coaches started doing a couple of years ago is sitting down with wrestlers and asking them what they want to get out of being on the wrestling team.

DeLeon said that as a coach, he wants to win, but, at the same time, one of the objectives is to teach young people how to be productive members of society who can withstand hardships.

The coaching staff, he said, for the last three years, have been asking themselves how they can meet kids at their level and grow with them but, at the same time, keep wrestling at the same high level the program has been at for so long.

In the last 20 years, Nyssa’s wrestling program has brought home nine individual state championships and 18 top-four finishes.

DeLeon said that for some kids, their top reason for joining was because their friends were on the team. For others, the reason for signing up was to travel with the team. 

He said the squad will travel to Corvallis later next month to see Oregon State University wrestle Pennsylvania State University.

“It’s about providing them experiences but also meeting them at their level through the sport of wrestling,” he said.

Kiera DeLeon, a freshman, and DeLeon’s niece, said she wrote that her goal is to become Nyssa’s first female state champion. More broadly, Kiera said she wants to earn a scholarship through wrestling.

As of Wednesday, Dec. 20, Kiera was 14-1 on the season. She said her uncle has been helping her and the rest of the team meet their goals.

“He’s really focused on everyone’s individual goals, so he can help us reach them,” she said.

For Ashton Wilson, a senior who has wrestled each year of high school, the goal he wrote down was to be proud of himself on and off the mat. He said the idea was to know that he was personally accountable and practiced good communication with everyone.

He said DeLeon, a coach in his youth football and wrestling leagues when he was growing up, has been instrumental in helping him reach those goals.

DeLeon, he said, has been like an uncle to him.

“He’s always been there,” Wilson said. “He’s always been a great example of doing things right. Being accountable.”

That personal accountability and mentorship tradition brought DeLeon to where he is now. For DeLeon, the prospect of a succession to the head coaching position is exciting to think about. On the one hand, he said, it’s his career, but on the other, he finds himself looking around, much like his predecessor, Cleaver. Is there a 22-year-old former Nyssa wrestler to bring back from college to take the helm one day?

“I’m definitely a long-term thinker, he said. “I’ve learned from the best, Coach Cleaver and for the last 13 years, I’m thinking, I got to find the next head coach for Nyssa.”

Bobby DeLeon, Nyssa’s head wrestling coach, talks to one of his wrestlers Friday, Dec. 28, at the Charlie Anthony wrestling tournament in Ontario. DeLeon took the helm of Nyssa’s successful wrestling program at the beginning of the season. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)
Bobby DeLeon, Nyssa’s head wrestling coach, huddles up with his team Friday, Dec. 28 at the Charlie Anthony wrestling tournament in Ontario. DeLeon took the helm of Nyssa’s successful wrestling program this year. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)

News tip? Send your information to [email protected].

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE – The Malheur Enterprise delivers quality local journalism – fair and accurate. You can read it any hour, any day with a digital subscription. Read it on your phone, your Tablet, your home computer. Click subscribe – $7.50 a month.