Sport Features

Looking for a sport for your kid? Why High School Wrestling matters

By April MacIntyre Jun 11, 2008, 23:32 GMT

Looking for a sport for your kid? Why High School Wrestling matters

Fuse network ran one of the finest coming-of-age films not too long ago, the 1985 “Vision Quest” starring Matthew Modine cast as Loudon Swain - a high school wrestler who decides to drop two weight classes so that he can wrestle the local high school champion. 

The movie hits on every aspect of classic wrestling challenges and rigors: of training that fuel the mental gymnastics involved with having to believe that you can beat anyone at anytime.

Personally, I have watched my own son go through an amazing transformation, both physically, intellectually and even emotionally as he has done a 180 degree turn in less than a year.  He now will enter his second year of wrestling after claiming MVP for the JV Calabasas High School team, part of the tough Southern California Marmonte league that has sizable schools and well-funded wrestling programs that dwarf our Coyote club.  

They are the league underdogs, but have proven themselves worthy adversaries over and over, winning key matches and placing in championship matches.  These facts have made the kids work even harder and show more heart, knowing the odds.  It has made them individually better, and glued the team in camaraderie of sports brotherhood.

Ounce of ounce, you will not find a stronger athlete in high school or college than a trained wrestler.  Wrestling training incorporate weight lifting and strength building as a part of their training, cardio endurance exercises and mat and grappling resistance practice moves to prepare for their matches.

As a part of conditioning, some coaches require running distances and sprints to get the body in shape, just as a track coach would do for his runners to build speed and endurance.

Ask anyone who has ever participated in wrestling; they have learned life lessons and built confidence and character.  Wrestling teaches self-reliance, self-confidence, and life skills utilizing the power of positive goals, without making excuses for failure. 

It is no surprise that many champions in various sports that I have interviewed had a high school wrestling background, or learned it later in life to add to their repertoire of skills.

Bas Rutten

Bas Rutten

Case in point: MMA legend Bas Rutten.  Rutten has studios that train future MMA champs, and is one of Kimbo Slice’s MMA mentors.

National Geographic channel featured Rutten in “Fight Science,” an experience he loved. 

“One thing I have to brag about, my kick was more than double the impact of a 35 MPH car crash, 1 stands for a 35 MPH car crash, I had a 2.1, love it!” shared Rutten, when I caught up with him not too long ago.
I was curious to know if he had a wrestling background.

“In Holland they pretty much don't have wrestling, so no; I never trained wrestling in my life before.

My takedown defense was always very bad, I never trained for it because when it went to the ground, I just submitted my opponent.   I trained really hard for it for my last fight which I was supposed to have against Kimo Leopoldo,

I trained in Dan Henderson's place and they couldn't take me down anymore, I wanted to show the world that I can do it right now. Too bad that they switched opponents on me so I couldn't show it.  I KO'd the other one with low kicks.
I love wrestling because you use every single muscle in your body and it’s great for stamina too. It's a real good base for MMA.”

It is not unusual to hear heavyweight wrestlers who also play high school football to comment at the end of football season, “its wrestling season now, time to get back in shape.”  

Those who wrestle and play football will tell you that four quarters of football does not put near the demand on you physically that three, two-minute periods of wrestling will.

The demand for action at all times is emphasized further by the fact that a referee will caution wrestlers for stalling if they are not actively trying to take down their opponent from the neutral position, pin their opponent if on top, or working to escape if on the bottom. You cannot build a lead in wrestling and coast to the end comfortably.

There are other benefits that wrestling has over football as a sport, which should be considered.  The injuries in wrestling are far less debilitating than in football.

Coordination and balance are interrelated skills a good wrestler learns, as well as momentum and his opponent’s momentum to set up takedowns. Speed is an indirect outcome of wrestling, and an effective wrestler will work the upper and lower body equally.

The takedown, escape, and reversal are moves based on mastering quickness. A wrestling coach can drill his team on moves over and again, but until the match experience requires reaction to the moves of your opponent, the wrestler does not learn the value of quick reactions.

Though football emphasizes team work for success,  only wrestling combines the advantage of the team work ethic while allowing a wrestler to rise to victory based upon his own merits or handle defeat with no one to blame but himself.

Coach Andy Falk, CHS Coyote Wrestling

Coach Andy Falk, CHS Coyote Wrestling

I spoke to Calabasas High School Wrestling Coach Andy Falk, who had some insight for parents considering different sports to enroll their kids in at the high school level.

Why should parents, especially incoming middle-school grad students consider wrestling over other sports?

Coach Andy Falk: Wrestling is a sport that allows every single student to compete, male or female, large or small, thin or big.

Wrestling is base strictly on merit.  A wrestler earns everything they get in wrestling including a spot on the varsity or JV regardless of class or age. While it's a team sport to some degree, it's primarily an individual sport which allows each person to succeed at whatever level they choose without having to wait for the rest of the team to catch up.

Wrestling gets you into the best physical shape you'll ever be in your life and it give you the confidence of knowing you can defend yourself in nearly every situation.

Have you sensed a resurgence of popularity in traditional wrestling that parallels growing interest in the UFC and MMA conditioning sports, with HS and collegiate wrestling often being cited as the core starting place for many of those athletes?

Coach Andy Falk: Yes, MMA and televised UFC matches feature lots of wrestling moves which clearly inspires young kids to investigate high wrestling more than a few years ago. In fact, other than a very small number of matches, the winners of UFC are usually the guys who know how to wrestle the best.

Wrestling is one of the last few sanctioned combat or "blood" sports in high school.
While it is one of the safest sports with the fewest injuries, it clearly involves hand to hand combat which most teenage boys love to engage in.

Where else can you knock someone down, put them in a headlock and NOT get
sent to the principal's office?

Parallels in improved academic performance with wrestling participation, real or hype?

Coach Andy Falk: This is a real phenomenon which I'm most proud of. Wrestling requires students to look at their lives/school and the sport as interconnected.

To be a good wrestler you must eat right, get plenty of rest and be a clear thinking person. After working so hard day after day in wrestling practice it only makes sense for a student to keep their grades up so they can compete in the dual matches and tournaments. Getting good grades also takes hard work and discipline which wrestlers learn to do quickly or they don't last.

What are the challenges that Calabasas faces in the Marmonte (California) league as opposed to the big programs at Royal, Agoura and Westlake High School?

Coach Andy Falk: This is a great, rather complex question. Calabasas HS was (and still is) considered a "small" school because of several factors:  We have a relatively small enrollment and we don't get a lot of kids trying out for the contact sports: football and wrestling.

Not as many kids in this area are relying on sports scholarships to attend college
since their families already have the financial ability to pay for college.  This means that they are less likely to come out for tough sports in the first place and then are sometimes less motivated to do the hard work it takes to be a wrestler.

And let's face it; because of the many choices kids have today with how to spend their free time including video games and the internet, joining a sport like wrestling is not always at the top of the list.

The problem is that sitting at home staring at a computer screen is not very healthy and video games are fake excitement.  High School wrestling is real live excitement.

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