Isaac Blackburn is a deliberate person.
The Del Oro High School standout wrestler takes his time in everything he does, such as answering questions. Whether they come from inquiring reporters, coaches, friends or classmates, Blackburn is so thoughtful in choosing his words that the Golden Eagles yearbook staff had to track him down three times within a week to get a senior quote.
Quiet and stoic, Blackburn is a thinker who lets his wrestling achievements speak, and they speak loudly. He is a favorite to win the 106-pound weight division at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters championship that starts Friday at Stockton Arena. After that, Blackburn (40-3) will set his sights on a CIF state championship in Bakersfield, continuing a legacy of success at Del Oro.
“He’s a very smart guy,” Del Oro coach Dave Sanchez said. “Smart guys aren’t usually the ones talking. They’re the one’s listening.”
How smart? Blackburn is certainly one of the more intelligent student-athletes when he walks into most gymnasiums, having scored a 32 (out of a perfect 36) on the ACT, ranking in the 98th percentile. That, coupled with a 4.0 grade-point average helped Blackburn earn acceptance into Cal Poly, where he hopes to study engineering. He also may wrestle for the Mustangs in San Luis Obispo.
Blackburn’s parents encouraged him to take up wrestling in elementary school because, he said, he was “more physical than my brother and sister.”
“They just thought I would be good at wrestling,” Blackburn said. “They said, ‘Just do one year and we’ll see where you are.’ And I just kept going.”
It’s not common for seniors to wrestle at 106 pounds. Growth and increased muscle mass through the teen years usually force upperclassmen into higher weight classes. But Blackburn wanted to remain at 106, his weight division all four seasons at Del Oro. He has used freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling to improve his skills, and he competes this season with a sense of urgency after finishing second at last year’s Masters tournament and failing to finish in the top eight in the state tournament.
“The way I look at it is, this is my last year, and I really want to put everything I have into this,” Blackburn said. “I want to do as well as I can, and at 106 pounds is where I can do that.”
Blackburn was a “small 106-pounder” as a freshman, according to Sanchez. With help from his father, Tom, who coached Blackburn in middle school, and with CrossFit training, Blackburn has gained strength and stamina but not pounds.
“This is a grueling sport and it takes unusual persistence to stay with it,” Tom Blackburn said. “Isaac has developed into a strong, confident young man.”
Sanchez anticipates a strong finish for Blackburn, the state finals included.
“I’m really excited,” Sanchez said. “I think Blackburn’s the best guy in our section. Most importantly, he thinks he’s the best guy in the section.”
For Blackburn, competing alongside 11 Del Oro teammates, including senior co-captain Dylan Kainrath, is a joy.
“Just growing with this team, this is exciting,” Blackburn said. “We are the best we’ve ever been.”