On June 9, 1979 Ben Camphouse was one of the most gifted and highly recruited wrestlers to ever come out of the State of Montana. One day later, Camphouse was in critical condition in a Great Falls, Montana hospital. Whether he would live, let alone wrestle again was unknown.
Now nearly 18 months later, Ben Camphouse is alive, healthy, optimistic and wrestling for the nationally ranked North Idaho College Cardinals. Is he still the wrestler Simms, Montana residents remember? Well that remains to be seen. But if Camphouse ever wrestles again or wins another match he will have won the biggest battle of his life.
After that speeding car left him hospitalized with a fractured left leg, broken left arm, coma, concussion and broken vein in his right arm, wrestling was just a distant dream to those who knew Camphouse.
"Ben Camphouse is one of, if not the most dedicated wrestler on the squad," said NIC wrestling coach John Owen. "He will stay in the wrestling room many hours after practice just to get a move down. He's an amazing kid."
"I'll tell you a story about Ben Camphouse," continued Owen. "He recently took an exam in chemistry given by Chemistry Professor Bill Pecca. Camphouse got an A on the bugger. Pecca told me Camphouse would practically have had to stayed up all night to get that good of a grade."
Many wouldn't be surprised if Camphouse did exactly that. And many would be even less surprised if Ben Camphouse makes nationals with the nationally ranked Cardinals. But when Camphouse was asked how he would fare in the national tournament he replied, "First I have to make the team. I want to take it step by step."
There have been speculations by coaches and fans that Camphouse would never wrestle again. Those speculations were obviously wrong. All those injuries, along with the painful rehabilitation that lingers on, couldn't stop Camphouse from competing.
Just before the accident, Camphouse was on his way home from work and was talking to some friends on the edge of a rural Montana highway when the fateful event happened. "When I was out of the hospital I was just taking little baby steps. I was so slow," Camphouse said of his rehabilitation. "My equilibrium was almost zero. It was really hard to walk," he added.
Most coaches disregarded Camphouse after the accident, but not Coach Owen. "John called me when I was in the hospital to find out how I was. He really cared about me. I just wasn't another person," said Camphouse.
When Camphouse was in his rehabilitation process his doctor asked him, "How important is wrestling in college to you?" Camphouse replied, "Everything." Then the doctor said, "It's going to have to be, because every step you take is going to hurt." Camphouse made that commitment. He knows every step he takes will hurt and every takedown will be painful. But he also wants to be better than average. That's a feat he should obtain.
It more than likely would be proper to rule out All American status for Ben Camphouse, but don't be surprised if he gets a piece of the cake at nationals. He is so positive towards life and so dedicated that it almost makes me feel rather inadequate in comparison when I talk to him.
I'm pulling for Ben Camphouse to be a national champion in his weight class. Not only because I'm an alumnus of North Idaho College, but for another reason. He has something going for him that even the most gifted athlete lacks and that's the drive and desire to be a winner. And whether or not he wins another match in his young life, Ben Camphouse is exactly that, a winner.
Hey there. I'm Rick Coe and thanks for stumbling on to my blog which contains columns I wrote while working for the now defunct Kellogg Evening News which was located in Kellogg, Idaho.