Seton Catholic sophomore CJ Hamblin doesn’t have a cell phone. He doesn’t own a video-game console. He’s a lone wolf, of sorts, a self-described “homebody”.
He’s also a state wrestling champion, the only in Seton Catholic history. He’s ranked No. 1 entering Saturday’s 1A Regional at Hoquiam and is on track to become something he’s dreamed of since he started wrestling at 4 years old: a four-time state champion.
It’s a long way to go for that, surely, but Hamblin’s incredible talent and self-motivation has him targeting an achievement no Clark County grappler has before. There have been just 22 four-time state champions in Washington history. None are from Clark County.
“That’s the No. 1 goal, of course,” Hamblin said.
But Hamblin’s dreams are bigger than that. He wants to be a national champion. He wants to be an Olympian. He wants to be a role model to his younger cousins and aspires to be as strong as his parents, Kymra and Chris.
His parents, after all, are why he’s able to go to Seton Catholic, why he’s able to participate year round in Askeo International Mat Club and why he can travel the country in the offseason seeking competition against the nation’s top grapplers.
“I reflect on it a lot,” Hamblin said of his parents. “People are like ‘CJ, you don’t have a lot of stuff.’ But I’m always the one traveling. I’m always the one that gets to go everywhere. I’m happy my parents work for me to be able to take me to other places. They always make a way.”
Chris is a truck driver and Kymra works at Cascadia Tech. He tries to give perspective to his classmates as often as possible.
“A lot of these kids here are fortunate to have great parents that get all this huge money, but a lot of kids don’t,” Hamblin said.
Hamblin’s dreams came to a halt this summer when he found out he had been competing through nationals with a torn meniscus in his left knee, his attacking leg. It required arthroscopic knee surgery, and he wasn’t fully healthy and back on the mats for 16 weeks.
“I had to call Kingston, my little cousin, a couple of times because I was down,” Hamblin said of the recovery. “I was crying because I couldn’t do nothing.”
The sophomore is no stranger to knee injuries; he’s dealt with them his whole life. This one was different, though. Hamblin, who won his state title at 145 pounds, ballooned to 178 pounds.
He spent hours on the stationary bike to get back in shape and prepare himself for his second run at state gold. Once he returned to the mats, it was business as usual. Hamblin never relinquished his top ranking and will make this state run at 152 pounds.
Through the offseason, he realized the areas he needed to improve, too. Often, Hamblin is able to rely on his athleticism to beat opponents on their feet.
“It can put me in trouble,” Hamblin explained. He has honed his technique, working on scrambling out of bottom position and out-maneuvering opponents.
His high-school record sits at 70-3, two of those defeats coming this year in the finals at the prestigious Pac-Coast Championships and the Gut Check Invite in Kent.
While he admits there’s a certain pressure that comes with being a freshman champion, it’s also something he’s embraced. His teammates, too, have benefited.
“He makes the standard of the room push up like three levels when he’s in here,” 145-pound junior Elijah Volk said. “It’s nice knowing that you have somebody who has won state and done it before. It really pushes you to get there and believe you can do it too.”
When the season is complete in two weeks at Mat Classic, no matter the result, Hamblin will return home to another passion of his: cooking. Pasta and grilling are his specialties.
“I like to do things my way; I’m really picky about things,” he says. “I cook because if I mess it up, I can say it’s my fault.”
Something says that’s probably what makes him a great wrestler, too.