FELTON -- Cody Rodebaugh loves a challenge. That was clear at age 8, when his mother Debbie enrolled her then-hyperactive child in as many sports as possible: baseball, soccer, gymnastics, swimming .... Rodebaugh chose the one he was worst at: wrestling.
Now, Rodebaugh can't find a challenge. The San Lorenzo Valley High junior -- who earned all-America status already this season by taking second at the Reno Tournament of Champions -- is ranked No. 1 in his weight class in the Central Coast Section and No. 2 in California. A two-time league champion, CCS placer and state qualifier, he's well on his way to becoming one of the most decorated wrestlers in Santa Cruz County in nearly three decades.
At Aptos High today, he's expected to roll to his third straight Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League title at 140 pounds.
So excuse Rodebaugh [35-2 this season] if he gets a little bored from time to time.
"Sometimes, it's not that fun for me," Rodebaugh said of the lack of high-profile competition for him in the area. "It's just business."
Rodebaugh has big goals. He wants to win CCS and state titles the next two seasons. On his road to meeting those goals, he has faced many wrestlers who were far out-matched. Hence his yawn.
He was unbeaten against California opponents this year until last weekend, when he lost while trying to challenge himself by wrestling at a higher weight at a tournament in Fremont. While wrestling at 140, he has won six tournaments and been named Outstanding Wrestler four times.
He has even bigger goals on the horizon. He wants a college scholarship in the sport and to one day win Olympic gold.
"The difference between Cody and a lot of wrestlers," said Cougars coach Ken Pollastrini, "is he thinks he can be an Olympic gold medalist, no matter what anyone says to him, and that's great. And the way he's going, everyone believes him."
Rodebaugh's list of goals is a progression, one leading to the next.
He's already come a long way on the mat. His initial goal as a kid was modest: Win one match.
"I was losing so much," Rodebaugh said. "It took me four years to win my first first-place medal. I lost so much, I was crying about it."
Getting better became a year-round obsession. He competed with the Oak Grove Soaring Eagles club in San Jose for three years. When his family moved to the Felton area, he joined the SLV Gators.
Offseason? There isn't one for Rodebaugh. When the high school season is out, he and his family travel the country, taking on the best competition. Last year, he was a member of the California National Team in both Greco-Roman and freestyle and competed at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado.
Rodebaugh, also an avid fisherman, runs out of fingers when recounting the states he's wrestled in: North Dakota, Nevada, Oregon, Oklahoma, Missouri ...
"This is a family adventure, too," said Dan Rodebaugh, his father. "We've traveled all over the states. We're kind of along for the ride. ... [The Olympics] would be the biggest dream possible. You've got to think of the reality of it. We're just looking at first things first. More than anything, this has kept us as a good family unit. I've been married 19 years, while most of my siblings are divorced."
Pollastrini said Rodebaugh could win CCS at any of the weight classes from 135 to 152 pounds. But with the local scene tapped out, the coach and pupil have gone to several tournaments heavy on out-of-CCS competition to prepare for state.
That list includes the Reno Tournament of Champions, Big Valley Classic in Stockton, Mid-Cals in Gilroy and Mission San Jose Invitational in Fremont.
Rodebaugh hoped to match up against Vlad Dombroski of Natomas High in Sacramento, the state's No. 1-ranked wrestler at 140 pounds, in Stockton. Dombroski was on hand, but chose not to wrestle.
"I think he's ducking Cody for the same reason Cody's seeking him out," Pollastrini said, noting the No. 1 ranking is at stake. "If he beats Cody, so what? It will be good for state. Cody has always avenged his losses. But if Cody beats him, that would have to make Cody No. 1."
While Rodebaugh grew accustomed to losing when he first started the sport, it doesn't sit well with him now.
Rodebaugh, battling a stomach flu, lost 3-2 to Los Gatos' Calvin Hawkes in the CCS championship last year and avenged the loss at state.
This year, after falling to fellow all-American Steven Hernandez of Las Vegas' Bishop Gorman on Dec. 20, Rodebaugh vowed to go unbeaten and claim the CCS title. That quest ended after a long string of victories last weekend at Mission San Jose.
He entered a higher weight class hoping to meet up with Clovis' Scott Sakaguchi, the state's top-ranked wrestler at 145 pounds, in the finals. A win over Sakaguchi would likely vault him to the top ranking in the state.
Instead, Rodebaugh was upset by Freedom's Nick Waldrop in the semifinals, 12-9. Rodebaugh then annihilated his next two opponents to take third place.
The loss probably didn't sit well with Rodebaugh, who wrestles heavier opponents every day in practice, including teammate Logan Kellogg [160 pounds] and Kellogg's brother Alex , a graduated state qualifier.
With postseason rapidly approaching, Rodebaugh will have to shake off the missed opportunity. After all, new opportunities await, and so do new challenges -- including, perhaps, a meeting with Dombroski.