As his right hand was raised to the crowd by the referee after winning last year’s 4A State wrestling title at 113 pounds, Siuslaw High School senior Richard Huff, a junior then, had no idea he would be taking his skills across the ocean to Moscow just four months later.
But after winning the Oregon Cultural Exchange Trials last March, Huff got the word he would be part of a 16-day excursion for the chance to wrestle his Russian counterparts. The next step was to raise the $3,000 required to cover all expenses.
Utilizing fundraising efforts through a raffle for a $500 Visa gift card provided by the Oregon Wrestling Cultural Exchange (OWCE), Huff set about offering raffle tickets at $10 each.
It lasted less than three weeks.
“The community was incredible,” Huff said. “It was so supportive.”
At 2 a.m. on July 26, Huff left Thurston High School with a group of Oregon wrestlers for the airport in Portland, where they caught a flight to New York City before boarding the long flight to Moscow.
“I never thought we’d land,” Huff said of the 10-hour flight.
When they did, the Oregon soil of home was some 4,700 miles away. For the next 16 days, Huff and his fellow wrestlers competed on mats in four different cities, including Moscow and Yakutsk, a city of 300,000.
“We trained with their team for two days before having a duel meet with them,” said Huff. “When we did wrestle, it was one match at a time with about 3,000 people in the stands.”
“I lost 12-1 in about a minute and a half,” said Huff. “It was kind of my own fault. I didn’t really stay in shape,” he said with a laugh.
Huff went on to another, smaller Russian City, where they stayed at a local college. It was there that Huff was faced with an unexpected challenge.
“There was no electricity or running water during the day, so we had to bathe in the river,” said Huff. “But it was a reddish brown color, so we usually took a shower at night.”
In the next city, Huff and his fellow…