Timmins Wrestling kicked off the start of its 2010-11 season Monday night with a training session at École secondaire catholique Thériault.
Neil Bangs, one of the coaches of the club, said they usually get about 30 to 40 athletes ” ranging from 12 to 18 years old ” out at the start of the season.
“This year we did a little bit more promoting, so we are hoping to get a little bit more than that, “he said. “We are hoping to get around the 50 mark.
“The ones we are getting out are kids that range from Grade 6 right up to Grade 12, so there is a wide range of ages.”
During the course of the year the wrestlers work out four times a week.
“Because of the limitless amount of moves that can be delivered in wrestling, what happens is a lot of it is based on technique, “Bang said.
“So for the first three or four months we train them to try and get the moves down and then after that as the season goes along it becomes more conditioning and fine tuning their moves.
“A wrestler is developed over three, or four, or five years, so it is a stepping stone for them to hopefully go into a university program and maybe even compete for Canada one day.”
In addition to technique, strength is another important component for wrestling.
“Because of the different body types, and different sizes and different genders, I have seen some people who have a lot of upper body strength be successful in wrestling, “Bangs said.
“And I have seen people whose lower body is extremely strong and they are able to lift and get their back into it and get people off the ground. So really it is a combination of everything.
“What we try and train is the total body, to make sure they develop everywhere, so it gives them an advantage of being able to pick and choose their style of wrestling ” if they are going to be a shooter or if they are going to be a grinder, or a thrower.”
Wrestling is pretty much a year round sport, with athletes beginning to train in mid-September and the summer season wrapping up in early September.
The first tournament for the Timmins Wrestling athletes will be the first weekend in November in Sudbury.
It will be a good warmup for a local tournament ” the North Eastern Ontario Athletic Association championships ” at Thériault on Dec. 11.
“We are expecting teams from Sudbury, the Soo, Elliot Lake, Sturgeon Falls and even a team from Thunder Bay, “Bangs said.
“We will have four mats set up and they will be running all day.”
The coach said there is a close link between the club system and the high school system.
“Because the coaches are pretty much the same coaches for the high school program as the club program, it’s kind of like one group all together, “Bangs said.
“So what happens is they don’t do extra training, the just pretty much follow the same practice schedule. It’s just to help the sport out in the city of Timmins.”
In terms of high school wrestlers, so far the club only has athletes from Thériault and O’Gorman High School.
“What we are trying to do is promote the club within the other high schools and hopefully we will be able to pick up a few athletes here and there, “Bangs said.
“And hopefully it will generate a need in the schools to maybe start up a program. It would be nice to see about 20 kids from O’Gorman, 20 kids from TH&VS and 20 kids from RMSS.”
The coach said they are at the beginner stage of trying to promote the sport within the city.
“The club program in Ontario and the high school program in Ontario are very closely linked because of the limited amount of athletes who wrestle, “Bangs said.
“There are enough wrestlers who wrestle in Ontario but you can’t really generate a club program like hockey does and a high school program like hockey does.
“It is kind of linked a lot. Even for us, our provincial championships, if you win a provincial championship it gives you a ranking for OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations).
“The OAWA, which is the Ontario Amateur Wrestling Association, kind of caters to the high school level because there is a big pool of athletes at the high school level that they are hoping to be able to continue later on in university and then after that develop into world-class athletes.”
Timmins Wrestling isn’t just concerned about developing high school athletes, however.
Bangs pointed out that in Ottawa, for example, they have 800 wrestlers at the bantam level ” 12 and 13 year olds.
“A lot of the tournaments cater to them also, so you will have a high school tournament being run on one side of the gym and you will have all the bantam wrestlers on the other side at the same time, “he said.
“Most of the tournaments we go to you have both of them ” the high school athletes and the bantam athletes.”
When Bangs wrestled at the high school level there were a handful of programs throughout the North, but they pretty well died out between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s.
“When I started we had like five or six athletes and now we are up to like 30 or 40 and you have girls and boys, “he said.
“Just recently we sent another one of our athletes off to university, he was a provincial champion, an OFSAA champion and a national champion.”
That kind of success, combined with the exploits of Canadian wrestlers at the Olympics and the World Championships, is bound to boost the popularity of the sport.
While the WWE, and other television franchises, might have the word wrestling in their name, there is little comparison between their theatrics and the actual sport that awards medals ” not belts ” at the Olympics.
“What you see on TV is pretty much a show, it’s orchestrated and choreographed, but what you see here is not at all, “Bangs said, in explaining the major difference between the two versions of the sport.
“It’s a sport that is very similar to judo, in a sense, where you have a lot of holds and a lot of take downs. You are trying to expose your opponent or control your opponent more than anything else.”
An unlike professional “wrestling “where you have to be 6-6 and 350 pounds, true wrestling is a sport that can be enjoyed by anybody.
“Pretty much any body type and any gender can wrestle, “Bangs said.
“So if you are a 110 pound boy, or a 150 pound girl, there is a category for you. You don’t wrestle any higher than within 10 pounds of your own weight. Athletes compete against their own age level and their own skill level.
There are many styles of wrestling, as well, within the amateur version of the sport.
“There’s grappling, there’s freestyle, which we do, there’s Greco-Roman ” which is pretty much not attacking anything except the upper body ” there’s all kinds, “Bangs said.
“In Canada it seems to be freestyle that is the most popular and pretty much all tournaments are geared toward that, but you do see a rise in grappling because of the whole UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) thing.”
Timmins Wrestling will be holding a meet and greet session for parents on Monday, Sept. 27, at Thériault, from 6:30-7 p.m.
The organization also has a website ” www.timminswrestling.com ” to provide more information on the sport.
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press