DAVIS — It has been two years since Braden Ruth last stepped onto the mat for the Davis Wolves.
However, Connor Webb, Ruth’s practice partner in the eighth grade and as a freshman, never forgets about the “little things” that were taught to him by Ruth, a three-time state champion.
Actually, years worth of wrestling.
Webb first took up wrestling when he was 4, and Ruth was a couple of years older than him. Wrestling helped to form a great friendship. And it was very rare when they didn’t compete in the same tournament.
“We went to every tournament, every weekend,” Webb said.
As they got older, Ruth became a mentor to Webb.
“He showed me a lot,” Ruth said. “He is a great friend. It was easy to learn from him.”
Webb’s father, Rod Webb, who wrestled for Davis from 1987 to 1989, is appreciative of all of the knowledge that had been passed on to his son from Ruth.
“They have real similar styles,” Rod said. “I have wrestled with Braden since he was little. They are both big, strong kids.”
Connor also learned the tricks of the trade from his father.
Part of history
When Davis fielded a wrestling team for the first time in 1987, the cafeteria inside Davis High School was also used as the wrestling room. Mats were rolled onto the floor. Practice for the eight Wolves wrestlers began shortly after.
Wrestling for Davis during the program’s infancy years wasn’t easy.
“Our coaches were tough on us,” said Rod, who played for the 1986 state champion Davis football team. “It was a shock to the system after playing football. We were extremely confident after football season. You get humbled quick.”
An avid lover of wrestling, it led him to becoming an instructor nearly 15 years later.
From fighter to trainer
When Rod left the Marines in the late 1990s, he was looking for a hobby to keep him busy.
Having previous experience in boxing, fighting proved to be his calling.
In 1999, Rod and his brother-in-law, Jayson Bailey, took up Jiu-jitsu. A year later, they traveled to various events to fight. They wanted to see how they would do. They wanted to see if it was for them.
Eight years ago, Rod was crowned MMA champion in his weight division after winning a bout in New Mexico.
“It was just luck,” he said.
These days, road trips to fight are much less.
Rod is focused on fathering his three boys — Connor, 17, Cooper, 15, and Bear, 9 — and training other fighters at his gym, Caveman Wrestling, which first opened its doors 14 years ago.
Usually, Rod trains, on average, five fighters per day during the summer months. Some of them are in high school on the wrestling, including Connor. They train for a couple of hours during the morning and then again during the evening.
Currently, Rod is training a fighter for an upcoming Bellator MMA fight at WinStar World Casino. Cooper and Bear have also worked out with their dad.
“They’re wearing me out, but it’s all good,” he said. “It keeps me and them going.”
A fullback in Davis’ wishbone offense, Connor tries to keep a balance between football and wrestling shape. He works hard in the summer at various football camps to try to help the Wolves prepare for what they hope is another run at a state title. Their most recent title came in 2014, which was his sophomore season.
Wrestling is never far off the radar of Connor’s mind. He knows that it is usually a quick transition from football to wrestling. To keep his wrestling skills fresh, he works out at the gym.
It’s at his dad’s training facility where Connor also trains for the occasional fight.
In the summer of 2015, Connor won a title at an event in Dallas, his third fight in submission wrestling.
Although they offer many similarities, there are a few rules in prep wrestling and submission wrestling that differ.
“The difference is, in high school wrestling, most technique is without chokes or joint blocks, as it is in submission wrestling,” Rod explained.
But, the benefits of competing in submission wrestling are worthwhile.
“It gets you ready to get out of those weird positions in high school wrestling,” Rod said.
Back to back?
Connor hopes his experience with submission wrestling helps to lead him to his second state title in prep wrestling.
Off to a 5-0 start to the season, he was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the upper weight division at the Anadarko Christmas Classic on Dec. 19. He placed first at 220 pounds. He had the most number of pins in the least amount of time.
That hot start has Connor liking his chances to repeat as state champion.
“It was exciting to win last year,” he said. “It was something that I was trying to go for. There is some good guys, but I think that I could win.”
Colleges are taking notice of Connor, including Brown and Maryland, both of whom have made offers for him to attend college.
Connor said that he has supporters to thank for his success on the mat — including Ruth.
“He was bigger and stronger than me, but he made me better,” he said.