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Wrestling has a firm hold on me

April 14th, 2013 by Tom

Wrestling Room

So, sports colleague supreme John Dudley once commented how there's no middle ground when it comes to a youth's initiation into wrestling.

He meant amateur wrestling, by the way. Not the Hulk Hogan/Rowdy Roddy Piper/Nature Boy Ric Flair/Sgt. Slaughter/Captain Lou Albano variety that once hoarded the attention of my Strong Vincent brethren.

I don't remember John's quote verbatim, but it was something along the lines of how you only needed one gym class session on the mat to learn if mankind's oldest known sport was for you or not.

Win or lose, you immediately knew in your gut if you wanted to try it again.

Well, after all-the-way-back-to-kindergarten friend Brian Lipiec gleefully mangled my guts, I can emphatically tell you I never wanted to try it again. Since then, the closest I ever came to a half nelson was watching that Ryan Gosling movie of the same title.

Still, I've come to appreciate the sport since I began covering scholastic wrestling in the mid-2000s.

No, make that sincerely appreciate.

Basically folks, you have to have a different mindset to wrestle. And I mean that as a compliment.

For some reason, it seemed many of the entrants I saw up close during March's PIAA tournament bore more physical wear and tear than those from past meets.

One wrestler was in danger of losing by injury default because of spigotlike nose bleeds.

Another competed with a mammoth gauze sticking out of his mouth, courtesy of the stitches that desperately tried to connect his split lip.

Two others were removed on a stretcher.

Feel squeamish?

Well, that's the idea.

Because no other sport demands -- requires, really -- so much personal sacrifice than wrestling. I've come to believe its participants are noble just for considering it in this sedentary society of ours.

And to compete and train for two decades like four-time Olympic medalist Bruce Baumgartner did? Well. ...

Those same Summer Games are the reason I'm for once using this column space as the bully pulpit it's always had potential to be.

That's because the International Olympic Committee is threatening to drop wrestling from its competition as of 2020.

Let me clarify that with previous words.

The International Olympic Committee is threatening to drop wrestling -- mankind's oldest known sport -- from its competition as of 2020.

If that angers/infuriates/frustrates you even the slightest, please sign this online petition (www.ipetitions.com/petition/olympicwrestling/).

Even if you've never wrestled in your life, hopefully you'll help the sport escape from this fatal hold.

Youth wrestling is more popular than ever in East Tennessee

April 10th, 2013 by Tom

Youth Wrestling

For many young athletes in East Tennessee, football, just makes sense.

Wrestling? Not so much.

Hunter Fortner, one of four local boys who won AAU Spring Youth Nationals on March 23 in Kingsport, said he's learned they're not so different " but not without a few surprises along the way.

"I got a flyer for it at school," said Fortner, of his first exposure to wrestling as a second grader. "I thought it was WWE stuff at first. It was really weird. I didn't really get it."

Now an eighth grader at Holston Middle School and two-time AAU All-American, Fortner said it all makes sense.

"It's like football," he said, while crediting coaches Joe Reep and Tim Pittman as well as teammates for helping him along. "It's a contact sport that keeps me in shape during the winter. "A takedown is kind of just like tackling, but there's more technique," he added.

It's clicked with others in the area as well. Six-year-old Mason Shields (35-pound tot division), ten-year-old Colby Dalon (75-pound midget division), and sixth-grader Tyler Jay Holmes (112-pound junior division) each won nationals in their respective classifications. The event included competitors from more than a dozen states.

Colby's father Bert Dalon, an amateur youth football coach, echoed Fortner's views about the connection between football and wrestling. Never mind the fact he said he "never even heard of" wrestling before his sons took it up. "If I had a high school football team, every player on my team would do wrestling. I think it's phenomenal for football," he said.

Several of the boys also competed in the Tennessee AAU State Championship, held March 9 in Cookeville. Holmes placed first and was recognized as the top performer for the whole season. Fornter and Shields finished second at the event, held March 9 in Cookeville.

Dalon placed second at this year's state tournament after finishing first at state and nationals while posting a perfect 37-0 record two years ago. His father says the family pressed on with the competition despite Colby's 17-year-old sister suffering an aneurysm the week of the tournament.

Although they wrestle for three different clubs, the boys all hail from the Gibbs, Corryton, and Halls area. Shields, a two-time AAU All-American, wrestles for Praetorian Wrestling, and Dalon competes with Knoxville Youth Wrestling. Holmes and Fortner wrestle for Eagle Talon Wrestling.

"It used to not be a very big area (for wrestling)," Fortner said. "It used to be only out west (Tennessee). But our coaches started over here, and it's really exciting. It's fun to wrestle better people and represent where we're from."

Make It Five: Nicholas Stigall repeated as champion at the Tennessee Men's Gymnastics State Championships in Cookeville on March 16. His fifth straight state championship, the home-schooled seventh grader from Farragut won in all six events " floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars and high bar. Stigall, a level 8 gymnast, trains with Tatartu's men's gymnastics team in Farragut.

Wrestling provides entry to martial arts

December 1st, 2011 by Tom

By Janet Gibson

Wrestling provides entry to martial arts

A co-ed wrestling program for students aged 10 and older has grown in popularity this year "its second year running.

Northern Pikes Wrestling Club meets Mondays and Thursdays at 3:45 p.m. in the mezzanine of Carpenter High School.

"It's fun, "said Jonas Samson Junior High student Hunter McAmmond, 12. "You get to jump on people and play all around."

The sport offers kids a great workout, an entry into the martial arts and the "affordability option, "said coach Jason Guenther. "(The students) don't need much equipment although travelling to tournaments can be expensive, "he said.

Richard Phillips, whose children are in the club, said it keeps them off the internet.

"It makes them (feel) happier and more alert, "he said.

Participants will be eligible for provincial and national competitions.

Carpenter High School Grade 12 student Ryan Parsons won gold last year in the Saskatchewan Amateur Wrestling Association.

Parsons, who played football with the Spartans, said the two sports are completely different.

"It's not so much power in wrestling but who has the better technique, "he said.

Northern Pikes Wrestling Club isn't affiliated with North West School Division.

A wrestling program for Carpenter High School students will start up on Nov. 21. Students in that program will compete in provincial tournaments.

Winning Wrestling Tradition in Manassas Park Starts Small

November 29th, 2011 by Tom

Kids as young as 5 years old learn the sport of wrestling in Manassas Park's Cougar Wrestling Program.

By Jim Kirkland


Virginia Wrestler

How does one of the smallest school districts in the state of Virginia, Manassas Park, which holds only 14,000 residents and 3,000 students, win five state high school wrestling team championships in eight years, including this year? Start small and focus.

For more than 10 years, wrestlers as young as 5 years old have began their training with the Cougar Wrestling Club.,  Meeting twice a week through the fall and winter in the Manassas Park Middle School special wrestling room, little cougars learn the ropes of amateur wrestling through the leadership of former Manassas Park champs.

The club was formed in 1999 by Richard Fitzsimmons, a two-time Virginia individual champion and then-coach of the Manassas Park High School wresting team.,  He coached championship teams for MPHS in 2004 and 2005.,  The club started small with only seven kids the first year. But by the second year, Fitzsimmons had enlisted Greg Jenkins, the first of a long line of state champs to come from the Park, to take over the club.

Jenkins started wrestling in fifth grade and won the county championship for Parkside. As an MPHS junior, he was runner-up for state champion but won the state title his senior year.

Since then, MPHS has garnered a, list of state champions, as long as your arm, and with great coaches volunteering to instruct the next generation of cougar wrestlers, that tradition is sure to continue.

It's not all about the coaching, though.,  Behind the scenes, Jenkins' wife Linda is the brains of the operation.

Coordinating parent volunteers to work scoring tables, staff snack bars, track kids' registration and distribute information to families, Linda Jenkins and her volunteers keeps the program together while her husband and the coaches focus on the learning on the mat.

The cougar wrestling program begins in mid-November and ends the second week in March.

Practices are every Tuesday and Thursday from 6-8 p.m. The program is open to all kids ages 5 to 14, but non-Manassas Park residents are required to pay a little more.,  The club tries to keep the fee low so all kids have the opportunity to participate.

Participants will have the chance to compete in eight tournaments and the regional finals.,  Two of the events will be held in Manassas Park, and officiated by the,  MPHS wrestlers. Parents will donate food and drinks for the snack bar and volunteers will run a meet for hundreds of kids who come from all over Virginia to compete.

By the end of the season wrestlers will have had the chance to compete in at least 24 matches and maybe another three at the finals. Winning is nice, but mat experience is the biggest prize kids can take away from the program.

"The program's ultimate goal get kids ready and knowing how to wrestle and win by the time they enter middle and high school.,  For many kids that will give them a chance showcase their wrestling ability and maybe get to college on a wrestling scholarship, "Greg Jenkins said.

Information about this season can be found on the Northern Virginia Wrestling Federation, website.

WrestlingGear.Com Donates 100 Pairs of Wrestling Kneepads to Beat the Streets USA

June 30th, 2011 by Tom
Beat the Streets Columbus Wrestling Photos

WrestlingGear.Com, an online retailer of wrestling apparel and equipment, has donated 100 pairs of kneepads to the Beat the Streets, a program that aims help at-risk kids in urban areas through the discipline and structure competitive wrestling provides.

WrestlingGear.Com announced a charitable donation of 100 pairs of knee pads to the Beat the Streets USA Program, an organization committed to providing at-risk youth the opportunities to benefit from the hard work and structure associated with the sport of wrestling. The knee pads supplied by WrestlingGear.Com will be distributed to newly participating Beat the Streets Program cities.

Jeff Pape, CEO of WrestlingGear.Com, has spearheaded the donation. "We are proud and excited to send 100 pairs of wrestling knee pads to the Beat the Streets USA Program," Pape says. "With this donation we can play a part in providing at-risk kids with the equipment they need to compete in cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and Columbus."
Pape has a longstanding relationship with the wrestling community. He began his wrestling career in the fourth grade, eventually going on to the Illinois State Tournament quarter-finals before joining the wrestling squad at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. Pape founded WrestlingGear.Com in 1998.

"As a wrestler I always wore knee pads, so it's a personal thing to supply knee pads to kids who need them and otherwise may not be able to afford them," says Pape. "Our website and Beat the Streets USA are both committed to expanding the national presence of wrestling, so teaming up to help them continue their important work with children made perfect sense to us."

"On behalf of the Beat the Streets USA Program, we are very grateful for Jeff and his company donating wrestling knee pads," says Al Bevilacqua, Chairman of the Beat the Streets USA Program. "Every new city needs donors who share in the vision of helping kids through wrestling to help fuel the mission. Jeff's donation is equal to sending a check for $2,000. Seventy-five percent of the donations each city receives go to purchasing equipment. In our model program in New York City, we've had donors purchase a diverse array of products like Asics shoes, Cliff Keen headgear, Brute shorts and shirts, as well as wrestling mats, which is a tremendous help."

To inquire about this news release or to obtain more information about WrestlingGear.Com or donating to the Beat the Streets USA Program, contact Jeff Pape at 1-800-565-0995.

About Beat the Streets USA
The Beat the Streets USA Wrestling Program aims to expand wrestling in America's urban centers by helping at-risk kids through the discipline and structure competitive wrestling provides. Beat the Streets USA helps enhance the athletic and overall lives of the members of the wrestling community by providing leadership and direction to kids while facilitating opportunities afforded by the many lessons learned through preparation for and participation in the sport of amateur wrestling.

About WrestlingGear.Com, Ltd
WrestlingGear.Com is the place where wrestling enthusiasts go to buy wrestling gear. WrestlingGear.Com provides the nation's up-and-comers and experienced veterans with the wrestling shoes and equipment they need to stay comfortable and competitive. WrestlingGear.Com supplies all major vendors, including adidas, Asics, Nike, Brute, Championship Productions, Cliff Keen, Human Kinetics, Matman and more.

Youth wrestling flourishing with three West Maui clubs

June 19th, 2011 by Tom

Youth Maui Wrestlers BY WALTER CHIHARA

WEST MAUI " Youth wrestling here on the West Side continues to flourish with the Napili Surfriders, Lahaina Roughnecks and a new addition this year in the Lahaina Red Raiders club within the Maui Style Wrestling organization.

It all began back in 1993, when Kim Ball rolled out the mats at Napilihau Recreation Center with a handful of bright-eyed youngsters to introduce the West Side youth to this most basic human competition, which has grown shoots and throws into one of the top sports across the nation and most definitely here in Hawaii.

Coach Kim and his staff of Nathan Fleming, Tom Cooper, Shane Cunanan, Jaret Nahooikaika, Chanse Uyeda, Precious and Bubba Jaramillo, Kahi Tihada, Justin Taylor, John Lacuesta, Turner Wyckoff, Connor St. John, Nainoa Steward and Mark Alamon guided the Napili club to another successful season through the six meets of the Maui Style season, which culminated with a team silver medal at the Hawaii AAU State Championships held at Lahaina Civic Center on May 14.

Robyn Rodrigues and Ann Cooper donated time and kitchen resources as the Team Moms for the Surfriders.

The Surfriders had 45 boys and girls involved in their program, which included participation in the AAU event and two camping trips to Hana and Molokai for meets at those locations.

"We had lots of fun this year, and especially with those trips to Hana and Molokai that are always the highlight for the kids and the coaches every year," explained Ball last week.

"The camping trips serve as motivation for the kids to keep with wrestling to get better at it. We want to give the kids something other than winning to be motivated to get better at it."

The Roughnecks club, led by veteran coach Conrad Bolor and Todd Hayase, Neal Nakata, Steve Marugaki, Ashley Hayase, Christian Carbajal, Nathan Inovejas, Reilly Pasion and Jansen Panlasigui-Domingo boasted 60 registered wrestlers this year, and the team finished fifth at the state meet.

Cindy Koyama and Ann Marugaki aided the Roughnecks as the Team Moms, and practices were held at the Lahainaluna Wrestling Room.

King Kamehameha III Elementary School served as the practice site for the West Side's newest entry into the Maui Style program: the Lahaina Red Raiders coached by Terry Shibao. This group had 12 kids participating in their inaugural season.

"With these three clubs here on the West Side, and with the 700 kids that took part in Maui Style Wrestling this year, we're looking forward to an awesome future for the sport," noted Coach Kim.

"There were over 550 competitors at the AAU meet, with over 1,000 supporters and spectators there as well to bring one of the nation's leading one-day amateur wrestling events here.

"This event is our big fundraiser for all three clubs, with Coach Todd, Lindsay and Momi Ball leading on the organizational end for us. It has been a great year for the eighth-graders that will likely move up to the Lahainaluna team next year, so there is a bright future there. We just looked up some statistics and found out that over the years, we've had 32 Maui Interscholastic League champions move on to become state medalists," Ball continued.

"We all have passion for wrestling, and the sport has done a lot for us. And as long as we can help the kids, make a difference in their lives, then we'll keep doing it."

Wilton CT Youth Wrestling Club Is Set To Start

November 7th, 2010 by Tom

WILTON -- The Wilton Youth Wrestling Club is set to start its inaugural winter beginning Tuesday, Nov. 16.

Brian McGovern is going to be the head coach, and Greg Morris and Ted Young are assistants.

Practice begins on Tuesday, Nov 16, and will be held at Comstock on Tuesdays 4:30-6 p.m., and Thursdays 6-6:30 p.m.

The cost is expected to be $185 for the whole season and includes a USA Wrestling membership card.

In addition to practices, we anticipate dual meets against other area clubs and participation in tournaments on the weekends.

The club is sanctioned by USA Wrestling, and all the coaches are or will be copper level certified by USA Wrestling's National Coaches Education Program.

In addition, we are coordinating our training and technique closely with the Wilton High School team and hope to be able to have some matches after a high school event in order to let our young wrestlers showcase their skills in front of a larger crowd.

The goals for the program are to introduce the techniques of amateur wrestling, to develop a good level of physical fitness, to build self confidence and character, and to allow for competition with neighboring communities.

Practices will combine instruction, drills, wrestling games, and live wrestling.

The program is open to 3rd - 8th graders.

The only special equipment required is wrestling shoes, though headgear is recommended.

More information: http://wiltonyouthwrestling.wordpress.com/