Eat, sleep, school, wrestling

What it takes to be National Champions


Courtesy of Susan Burnett

The 2022 WSU men’s wrestling team.

GABRIELLE BOWMAN, Evergreen news co-editor

WSU men’s wrestling is set to go to nationals in Puerto Rico.

The team will travel for the National Collegiate Wrestling Association Nationals in March 2023. It is one of the furthest trips the team has made. The team is thrilled for the opportunity to travel and to show their progress on a national stage.

David Darroch, sophomore management information systems major, is thrilled about the opportunity for the team. Darroch loves wrestling new people. He thinks one of the best ways to get to know someone is to scrap with them. He cannot wait to go out there and get that new feel.

“The travel opportunities wrestling has given me are huge and I would not give it up for the world,” Darroch said.

The men’s wrestling team has come a long way since its founding in 2012 and this is thanks to team head coach Phil Burnett, according to most teammates.

Rogan Kopper, senior business management major and the team’s safety and travel officer, has been on the team since 2017 taking a three-year gap. When he was here in 2017, less than 20 members were at everyday practices; only eight came consistently. He found it hard to find a partner to wrestle with. However, Burnett has grown the team exponentially. In 2022, they are up to 50 members.

“Anytime I am asked who somebody is I look up to as a role model it is Phil, he heavily competes with my dad for that spot. He is incredible,” Kopper said.

Some wrestlers even joined the team because of Burnett. Jacob Jeanneret, junior secondary math major and vice president of the team joined because of Burnett. Jeanneret had no idea if he was going to attend WSU. He also had not planned to wrestle in college. However, Burnett reached out to him and asked if he would be interested.

One of the main elements that make up the team is the camaraderie and friendship that pumps through the blood of each teammate.

The wrestling team is a whole secondary family that Kopper and his teammates have. It is why he came back after his three-year gap. he could have gone anywhere but wanted to go back and wrestle for WSU, Kopper said.

“The first time we were traveling to our first tournament in Oregon we drove out there and stayed at a guy’s house who was a friend of the coach. We piled into his living room and every square foot of the floor was filled with wrestlers sleeping for the night,” Kopper said.

Darroch decided to come to WSU and join the team because some of his high school teammates attend the university. He loves the culture and the emphasis on hard work. The teammates are his brothers and sisters, he said.

“I get to wake up every morning with a fire in my gut about something which is a huge blessing to be given this opportunity,” Darroch said. “I have been wrestling for seven years before coming to WSU and I love it. It is my biggest passion, eat, sleep, school [and] wrestling.”

James Cox, a senior majoring in management information systems and finance, is the team’s president and captain. He also expressed the fact of how close the team is. There is a family aspect of the team and the support structure there, Cox said.

He and a lot of people on the team can come to practice and leave behind anything that is going on in their life that is troubling them. They just have fun, get a good workout in, have that family kinship, and get stronger and better.

While wrestling is an individual skill-based sport the team still comes together in the end as a family to be there for each other and to support each other in any way shape or form.

Darroch said none of them are here on a scholarship. They are all here because they want to be, and they want to win national titles. He has never felt so invested as an athlete with a coach until experiencing Burnett’s coaching. He pours his heart and soul into this and Darroch tries to reciprocate.