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Local grapplers learning the ropes
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For over eight years, wrestling mats hung in the rafters of the Charles Shuman Center. Now, 30 youth from across Liberty County are using them to learn the double-arm takedown, full nelson, fireman carry and other basic moves of freestyle wrestling.
The youngsters are part of the Liberty County Recreation Department’s inaugural instructional wrestling program.
Judging by attendance and parent participation, the first-year program is a success.
Janine Deliberti, whose nine-year-old son Michael wrestles, said the coaches really know what they are doing and the boys are excited about wrestling.
Christian Ruff, 9, said he enjoys coming and learning all of the new moves.
“You can pick up people and do flips on them,” he said. “I’ve learned the fireman carry, hip toss and half-nelson.”
One of the coaches and Liberty County Recreation Department athletics coach Shawn Schumacher said he is elated with the participation rate.
“I’m overwhelmed,” he said. “My goal was 10 kids and before we knew it we had 30 and that’s before the first day. It’s amazing to see the kids working hard and to see them progress.”
The class is instructional so the children won’t compete but will learn the fundamentals of wrestling and compete in the future.
Some of the lessons taught include performing the single-leg takedown, double-leg takedown and fireman carry, proper wrestling stance, shooting, what to do when taken down and what to do after taking an opponent down.
So, how did the mats go from hanging in the rafters to lying on the gym floor? Well, former wrestlers Philip Howe and Ernie D’Alto got together with Schumacher, also a former wrestler, and got the ball rolling. LCRD Director Jimmy Martin liked the idea and the board approved the program.
“The goal is to get the community involved,” Howe said. “We have involved kids and we want to have a club team in the future. I have a passion for wrestling and I wrestled in high school. It’s something that’s not really recognized here in the South and we’re trying to bring it.”
The ultimate goal for the coaches is to bring wrestling into the high schools.
Bradwell Institute and Liberty County do not have wrestling programs but there are several coaches and students interested in starting a program.
“We want to get wrestling in the high schools because it is a sport that is needed in our high schools,” Schumacher said. “All we have in the winter is basketball. There’s more sports out there for the kids to do and it gives them an opportunity to do stuff rather than running the streets.”
Three Bradwell students, who previously wrestled in Germany and Oklahoma, were heart-broken when they discovered there was no wrestling team.
“I’ve wrestled for eight years and to come here and stop is pretty disappointed,” freshman Robert Bennett said. “I like to pick people up and throw them around. I’m a guy and I like physical contact sports. I win because of me. It’s my fault if I lose and my fault if I win. If I lose, I can’t blame it on the team.”
Freshman Dylan Shavers also was disappointed.
“I was all about wrestling when I came here. I bought new shoes and I was ready for the season,” he said. “When I found out there wasn’t a wrestling team, I was sad.”
Sophomore Christian Bennett said he wants to get back to hurting people.
“I’ve always been around wrestling and it’s pretty disappointing to not have it in high school,” he said. “I want to get back into the sport and hurt some people.”
The three BI students are happy to be a part of the LCRD’s wrestling program, but admit it is not the same as varsity competition.
Nevertheless, all 30 of the participants are having fun.
Some were even a little surprised on the first day when they walked into the gym and did not see ring ropes and turnbuckles like what they see on television.
Brandon Avery, 10, and David Robinson, 8, enjoy watching professional, but now understand the differences between WWE and amateur wrestling.
Brandon’s parents Sheryl and Steven Avery are more than happy with the program.
“It’s building his self confidence and really helping him in school,” Sheryl said. “Before, he was shy and stayed to himself but now he has to be out with the kids. He enjoys wrestling and I see him building his self confidence.”
Steven likes the discipline that wrestling instills into the youngsters.
“Wrestling builds their confidence and makes them better athletes,” he said. The discipline, sportsmanship and working with other kids are very important.”
Schumacher agrees that discipline and sportsmanship are two of the primary traits inherent to wrestling.
Schumacher pointed out to be successful in wrestling you must learnt he technique, watch your weight, improve your cardio-vascular condition and increase your strength.
Matches consist of two 3-minute rounds so endurance is a must.
Regarding sportsmanship, Schumacher said that when doing a lot of hands-on activities it is important for the children to keep their cool and stay focused.
Nikki Fountain, whose 10-year-old son Taun wrestles, thinks the coaches are doing an excellent job and said the children are learning a lot.
“My son really enjoys the interaction with all the other kids,” she said. “The kids have learned a lot in only three weeks. Taun is still excited and is having fun and that is what’s most important to me.”
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