By Ray Nunamaker
Assuming your wrestling program is well established in your school and your community, you’ll be anxious to make the leap to greater recognition, possibly at the national level. Much of what is required for that is some years of consistent, successful results from your teams. This requires tremendous perseverance and dedication. Where do you start?
Do What’s Right for the Wrestlers
The Wrestling Room.
Have a permanent room that is at least large enough for one full mat (42’ x 42’). If you can get more space, take it. Keep the room clean and orderly. Create specific places for jump ropes, time clocks, score flip-cards, announcements, newspaper articles, running shoes, extra clothing, etc. These items should not become safety hazards by being scattered around the room. Make sure you have sufficient heat in the room to avoid injuries and to allow the kids to get a good workout. Everyone should take pride in the room.
The Nazareth Recreation Commission always sponsors a summer wrestling program. It is basically an open wrestling room 2 or 3 nights a week, where there is no regimen of formal instruction. It gives wrestlers a place to work out, and often also attracts former wrestlers who are now in college. It’s a nice informal atmosphere where boys can focus on weak areas in their style yet have no pressure. The room should be supervised by a responsible adult at all times.
Summer Wrestling Camps.
Encourage wrestlers to attend a technique camp or team camp in the summer. About seven years ago we moved to a team camp. It’s great for camaraderie. Some camps also allow you to bring your junior high team. This is a good way to expose the younger wrestlers to their future coaches and teammates.
Out of Season Tournaments.
If your wrestlers participate in other sports, that’s great. If they don’t, and they are interested in competing in open tournaments off season, encourage them to do so. This may mean taking them yourself and spending long hours in the gym, but it provides necessary support for them, and helps them develop their skills more quickly. Out of season tournaments should not be required, because if the boys don’t really want to do it, they won’t really benefit, and everyone is just wasting time.
Play music during your team’s warm-up, between the JV and Varsity matches, and during time-outs. There are some great songs that will pump-up the crowd and keep everyone enthused, including the current Jock Jam series. Allow the team to pick the music, but maintain final veto power.
Junior High Matches.
When schedules can be arranged, have your junior high team wrestle at the same time as your JV Team, prior to the Varsity match. Put two mats out and let them compete right next to each other. It’s great for the junior high to wrestle before a crowd and get some recognition, plus it brings more fans to the gym. It also means there is rarely a dull moment, since something exciting is probably happening on one mat or the other.
Find someone who’s interested and likes math, and start compiling all sorts of statistics. Do research, and get as much historic data as possible, then keep things current each year. At the end of the season give each wrestler a book containing highlights and stats from the season, plus some history of your school’s program with records (team and individual). Our yearbook also includes photocopies of significant newspaper articles and box scores from the season.
Wall of Fame.
Devote one wall in your wrestling room to display a photographic history of the boys who achieved a specific level of success on your teams. Determine the minimum requirements, and hang an 8 x 10 photo of everyone who meets them. Include their name, years, record, and accomplishments. Every day the current members of the team have only to look as far as that wall for inspiration. Every wrestlers’ goal should be to make “the wall”.
Select another wall in your wrestling room to prominently display all of your school’s wrestling records, team and individual. These records should include things like career wins, most season wins, most falls, most technical falls, most takedowns, etc. Let your team know what’s possible, and also that records are made to be broken. For major accomplishments such as State Champion, hang banners in your gymnasium for everyone at every athletic event held in the gym to see.
Foster an Interest in College Wrestling
Attend College Matches.
Take your entire team to a local college match of the highest quality available. Our team goes to a Lehigh University match together each year. Call ahead to find out if you can get a group rate or reduced admission fee. Watching college wrestling provides the boys with a glimpse of what they can expect at the next level.
Open for a College Match.
Wrestling before a college crowd provides your team with an opportunity to promote itself to a new and often very responsive audience. Fans of college wrestling are able to see the type of program you have, and the caliber of kids who compete for you. This year Nazareth’s team had the unique opportunity of opening their season in a twin under-card at Hershey Park Arena with Lock Haven and Nebraska as the feature event. This is exciting for your team, their parents, and all of your fans.
Host a College Match.
Nazareth was fortunate to be able to arrange a dual meet between North Carolina State and Wisconsin at their high school gym a few years ago. Both teams were at nearby Lehigh for the Sheridan Wrestling Tournament, and agreed to come to town one day early for this match. There were four local young men wrestling for the two Division I teams that night, which sold out the gym. The fans really enjoyed seeing top college wrestling so nearby.
Over the years you will probably meet and get to know many coaches at all levels. Use your connections to help boys have the opportunity to attend college and wrestle. Write letters and promote your kids. Help them be realistic about the schools they consider, because obviously academics are the real deciding factor. You can provide valuable guidance beyond what they can get from the school’s counselors. Do whatever you can for the kids; they will be grateful.
Article provided by Wrestling USA Magazine (www.wrestlingusa.com) for exclusive use by WrestlingGear.Com