Robert Balint (left) faces an opponent on the mat.
I was introduced to wrestling during my freshman year of high school. In fact, before the wrestling coach recruited me during football season, I didn’t even know that Brophy College Preparatory
a wrestling team. Before high school, I played baseball, basketball and soccer, but I never once came into contact with a junior high wrestling program.
Arizona is far behind states such as Pennsylvania or Iowa, where the sport of wrestling is closer to a way of life than a mere pastime and 4- and 5-year-olds are hustled onto the mat by screaming parents. Like all sports, athletes who begin training earlier have a greater advantage than latecomers, as they have more time to learn and master the techniques, giving them a head start on muscle memory and body awareness.
That shouldn’t discourage high school athletes who have no prior experience. There’s no substitute for hard work. No matter how experienced a wrestler is, he still has to work for victory.
So what should you do if you have a child in seventh or eighth grade who is interested in wrestling?
Find the nearest grade school with a wrestling program. It probably will be a club program, not an actual school team. Club coaches teach the basic rules and fundamentals. They’ll take just about anyone who shows up ready to work. Here are some contacts to try:
Desert Mountain Wolfpack Wrestling Club
12575 E Via Linda, Scottsdale, AZ 85259
602-826-8887 • firstname.lastname@example.org • wolfwrestling.com
Sunkist Kids Wrestling Academy
P.O. Box 12520, Scottsdale, AZ 85267
480-205-3015 • email@example.com • sunkistkids.org
How is wrestling different from other sports?
Wrestling is a balance between an individual and a team sport. In dual meets, which pit two teams against one another, the two wrestlers in each weight class wrestle each other. Whoever wins captures team points, the number of which awarded depends on the nature of the win. After all 14 weight classes are done, the team points from each individual match are added up, and whichever team scored more is the winner.
Each team member has not only a personal desire to win, but also a responsibility to do well for the good of the entire team. Getting pinned sacrifices the most team points, so even if a wrestler has no chance of winning, he still has to fight hard to avoid giving the other team extra points that could decide the match.
Concerning individual matches, wrestling is as close as you can get to a non-team sport. There’s nobody out there on the mat to help you. There is only your opponent. It’s a do-or-die situation: no substitutions, no half-times, nothing.
What are the time commitments and physical challenges of wrestling? What are the benefits?
Athletes should be prepared to dedicate a large amount of time to wrestling. Because the sport demands an extremely high level of conditioning, going to practice every day (grueling though that may be) is crucial to success. As for the physical challenge, there is not much that is more difficult than doing sprints after a couple of hours of drilling techniques and sparring with teammates. After all, it’s full-on combat.
However, if you commit, the rewards are great. Close bonds with teammates, personal pride and self-confidence are all gained from a sport that lets you be as successful as you want to be: it all depends on your personal work ethic. Wrestling helps develop determination, confidence and a refusal to quit. Like Olympic gold medalist and American wrestling legend Dan Gable said, “Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.” — Robert Balint