ASHLAND -- As the No. 7 wrestler in all of the NAIA, SOU's 149-pound junior wrestler Chandler Michael is getting hot at the right time. When things get hot in Southern Oregon and California, though, it's he who is called upon to help put out wildfires.
"I had a job at a pizza restaurant the year before and it was boring, I was all pent up," Michael said, "Firefighting got me out there using my body every day."
Michael is a "hot shot" in and out of the ring. He fights wildfires with a unit during the summer and was especially busy in the crazy 2017 fire season. SOU head coach Mike Ritchey thinks the offseason lifestyle suits him well.
“It fits a wrestler’s mentality well to be out there in the rough wilderness doing tough things in hot weather," Ritchey said.
It has helped him in his training and the shape he got into last summer convinced him to drop back down to the 149-pound weight class, where he and Ritchey believe he can compete for a national title this season.
"He's close to being an All-American. I'm sure that's his goal, if not to win a national title," Ritchey said, "I don't want to put too much pressure on him, but he has that kind of talent," Ritchey said.
"Well, obviously [the goal is to] win the national championship," Michael said, "I think I have a shot at it this year. I have to believe I have a shot at it this year.”
The adversity of being in the wildnerness fighting fires has only strengthened Michael's resolve to push himself even harder.
"Some days are the best days of your life and some days are the worst of your life," Michael said, "Sometimes you're working 16 hours doing things you don't want to do."
But it also occassionally provides him a respite from the grind of the wrestling regular season.
"There are other days you get to show up somewhere and it doesn't seem like there's ever been another person there," Michael said, "It's really therapeutic to be out in nature for those long, 14-day stretches."
That has led him to want to spend long hours training in wrestling, even after he's done as a Raider.
“After I’m done competing with Southern Oregon, I’ll probably go to the Olympic training center for some time," Michael said.
Before the Olympics come calling, though, Michael has some unfinished business left in Ashland.
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