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Mat Rats matches are a family affair
The Liberty County Mat Rats display the medals they brought back from the Lil Bulldog Brawl in Lyons last weekend. - photo by Phgoto by Patty Leon

The Liberty County Recreation Department’s wrestling team, the Mat Rats, returned triumphant from the Lil Bulldog Brawl in Lyons last weekend where all five competitors medaled within the top three slots. The folk style meet was another opportunity for the Mat Rat cheerleaders, in this case their parents, to watch their sons in action.

Mason Wells, 14, won first place in the 135 pound class and third in the 140. Zachary Terry, 10, placed first in the 145 pound class. Tyler Fisher, 14, third place in the 130 and 135 pound classes. Andrew Houghton, 8, second in the 67 and 76 pound divisions. And Trey Neil, 11, first in the 79 pound class and second in the 76 pound class.

For the parents, the team has become an extension of their families and a morale booster for their children.

John Terry, Zachary’s father, has gone to a few tournaments and said the team continues to improve.

"I think this team, with the participation we have and the parents and coaches, this team is actually ready to go to the next level," he said. "It’s really good to see him (Zachary) compete. It’s one thing to see the kids out here at practice and help out, but it’s another thing to see them out on the mat. Getting mat time and actually competing. It’s good for them in general and in life, it’s a good life lesson."

Terry said his sons get a lot of their frustrations and energy out on the mats and go home tired. Mitchell Terry is a member of the Mat Rat, but has not competed yet.

"It’s a focused activity," Terry said. "Zach was very cumbersome when it came to athletic stuff, but since wrestling, I’ve seen a lot of flexibility and he’s lost 30 pounds. He carries his shoulders differently, he walks differently and his overall spirit is better because he lost all that weight."

Amanda Foster, Ryan Foster and Houghton’s mom, is a veteran to the Mat Rat squad and her sons. She is considered to be the first lady of the squad.

She said wrestling has made her sons stronger and more physically fit.

Kami Fisher, Tyler’s mother, has made it to three Rat tourneys and said the challenge has changed her son.

"He’s changed, not only physically, because his body and his endurance have changed, but also his respect for adults and his motivation," she said. "This sport is just something he has come to love so much that it has affected every area of his life."

"He has surprised us with how well he has taken to this sport," Jennifer Neil, Trey’s mother said. "This is his first year in wrestling and he has learned a lot. He is very devoted to this sport. He has done team sports in the past and this is the first time he has been able to show in an individual event and it has giving him confidence.

For Neil, whose team nickname is Shooter, the Rats are his second family. His father, Capt. Philip Neil a dentist with Fort Stewart’s DENTAC, is preparing to deploy to Iraq.

The Rats are coached by Philip Howe.

Assistant volunteer coach Travis Wells, Mason’s dad, said he was proud of the improvement and of course proud of his son’s performance.

"Seeing from where he started to where he is at today, it’s just a tremendous improvement," he said. "I’m proud of him as a young wrestler and as my son. It seems like every time we go to a tournament we have a slow start and we are trying to work on that. We’ll get there and get them warmed up and their heads in the game. Other than that, coach Philip (Howe) is doing an outstanding job with these young guys and the one young lady we have. As far as improving we can just continue what we are doing and it will all fall into place."

The Rats have a tournament this weekend in Valdosta and plan to take Wells, Foster, Houghton, Terry and Fisher.

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