Debate team looks to continue first semester success

By Matt Daray


The debate team has only completed half of its season and is considered one of the top teams in the country.

The team, led by partners Ben Campbell, a senior from Springfield, Mo., studying political science, and Josh Rivera, a junior from Chicago, studying political science, are ranked No. 1 in the nation, according to the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence. The two are now preparing for the next semester and the challenges they will face.


Campbell and Rivera have a record of 60 wins and two loses this year – a 97 percent win ratio – winning five of six tournaments they entered this year.

Campbell and Rivera were the first team in the country to qualify for the National Championship this year. The championship will be at Northern Arizona University in March.

Todd Graham, debate team director, said the two are working together better than he had hoped before they were paired together this season, and have become one of the best teams he has ever seen at the university.

“It’s hard to put into words how well they’re debating. It’s a great season,” he said. “I can’t say it was entirely unexpected. It would be any other year, but how really good Josh was and how really good Ben was, we were hoping the two of them would work this well as a team.”

Graham said it is hard pairing debaters because they sometimes use different styles or enjoy different topics and no matter how good they are, sometimes debaters do not work well together.

He said the team would hit the ground running next semester with multiple tournaments in places such as San Diego and Chicago.

Keeping his debaters on track, especially after all their success, can be difficult, Graham said.


“There’s a tightrope we have to walk as coaches,” he said. “We have to make sure and let them know that they’re doing an excellent job, but we also have to make sure and let them know when they need improvement. That can be difficult with a team this good.”

The key is making sure both Campbell and Rivera are praised for their efforts, but are reminded when they can be better, Graham said.

Campbell said his record with Rivera this season has been a joy for him to witness.

“It’s really exciting. We’ve done very, very well in the past and I’ve done very, very well over the last three years,” he said. “But to see the level of success that Josh and I have had this year, it’s been really, really exciting. It’s something I wouldn’t have normally expected us to be able to do, but everything’s been clicking very well.”

Rivera said the year has been an overall success with Campbell, even outside of debating.

“It really shows all the hard work and dedication,” he said. “It shows the fact that we were both able to get through the year as roommates and also academics and have a really good win ratio.”

The two are good friends and have been roommates since the beginning of the year, but that does not factor much into their overall teamwork as much as their practices, Campbell said.

Both Campbell and Rivera said their strategy for the debates has mostly stayed the same this year, but the level of focus and effort has been the key to their success.

Campbell said having such a record this season has actually helped him stay calm during debates, especially since he and Rivera have a high level of trust with each other.

“I don’t know how to really put it,” he said. “It’s calming, I guess, because normally whenever you go through a big round, there’s a lot of anxiety about how you’re going to perform.”

The first debate of next semester, called the Mile High Invitational, will be Jan. 16 at the Great Salt Lake University in Utah.

Matt Daray can be reached at 

[email protected] 

or 536-3311 ext. 254.