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Tilt-A-Cam: A ride many wrestlers experience against their will

WCHS sophomore Cam Phetxoumphone (left) tilts Greene County’s McKinley Robbins to his back for a two-point near fall during the Class 2A 106-pound state final Saturday night inside Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. Phetxoumphone won the bout, 5-0, to become the Lynx sixth individual to claim state gold. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Every opponent thinks he’ll be the one, the guy that won’t take a ride on the Tilt-A-Cam. And one by one, there they go, their eyes growing wide with the realization that their ride is just beginning.

Cam Phetxoumphone has become a master of what some wrestling instructors call the cross-wrist tilt, a move he pulls out of his bag of tricks only on special occasions. He doesn’t need it to score points against every Mike and Steve that crosses his path, but when the best of the best line up against him there’s a better than decent chance it will make an appearance.

Webster City actually calls it the Davis Tilt — a move affectionately named after Barry Davis, a former three-time national champion at the University of Iowa and Olympic silver medalist who taught the move to wrestlers during a summer camp when he was the head coach at the University of Wisconsin several years ago.

Phetxoumphone could rename it the Doolittle Tilt if he wanted to; he became a true student of the move while in the WCHS wrestling room with 2019 Lynx state champion Drake Doolittle. He was on the receiving end of it probably more times than he cares to remember during those practices, but the student learned quickly.

“Drake did it a lot to Cam and taught it to him,” WCHS head coach Chad Hisler said. “We went to a camp four or five years ago and learned that tilt, and (Doolittle and Phetxoumphone) obviously got really good at it and use it a lot.”

WCHS sophomore Cam Phetxoumphone (right) works to put Greene County’s McKinley Robbins on his back Saturday night. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

It’s become Phetxoumphone’s signature move. With upper-body strength that catches opponents by surprise, he quickly snatches the far wrist, pushes the near elbow under and rolls them over his own body until there’s nothing left to do but stare at the lights as the referee counts off near-fall points.

“I’ve put quite a lot of work into it, but I mostly hit it in my live matches,” Phetxoumphone said. “It just sets up perfectly.”

Greene County freshman McKinley Robbins got sucked into it during Saturday night’s Class 2A 106-pound state final, and the two points Phetxoumphone scored off the move midway through the second period put him in front for good en route to a 5-0 win.

Robbins elected to go down to start the second period, a decision that forced Phetxoumphone to restrain a smile.

“I thought he was going to pick neutral because he’s pretty good on his feet,” Phetxoumphone said. “I was surprised he took down. Top is my position.”

DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Davenport Assumption freshman Derrick Bass took a ride — not once, not twice, but three times — in the semifinal round too. Again in a scoreless bout after one period, Bass thought he could get out from bottom in the second.

Bass thought wrong. And by the time the third period rolled around, Bass was down 5-0 after a pair of tilts and he never recovered in an 11-2 loss.

Just how confident is Phetxoumphone? In the waning moments of his semifinal he tilted Bass for a third time. He did it with just one arm, and with the other he pumped his fist in celebration.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, this kid is a beast.

Humboldt senior Cole Nelson was smart enough to stay away from the tilt against Phetxoumphone in the quarterfinals. He went neutral when it was his choice, a decision that came with many mental scars from previous matches against the WCHS sophomore when he found himself in Phetxoumphone’s wheelhouse.

DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Phetxoumphone is far from a one-trick pony. He’s spent years honing his craft to become one of the state’s premier lightweight wrestlers.

And now he’s got a state title. It won’t be long — probably only days — before he heads back into the practice room to start preparing for the journey towards what he hopes will be a second state gold medal. By the time the 2021 state tournament rolls around, it may be an entirely new move he savages opponents with.

That’s what champions do — they constantly grow, they constantly adapt, and they constantly look for new ways to exploit weaknesses in their opponents.

In other words, the best may be yet to come.

DFJ photo/Troy Banning

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