FORT MILL --
It takes a special kind of person to be a wrestler, or so says Nation Ford High School’s head wrestling coach, Paul Richardson.
At the Nation Ford High School Youth Wrestling Camp held June 18-22, 18 novice wrestlers ages 6 to 13 showed Coach Richardson that they are that kind of person.
The camp was held at the Nation Ford High gym. Wrestlers were teamed up with a member of Nation Ford’s wrestling team and were taught the basic components of the sport. Wrestlers from the high school team in attendance included Brady Hensley, Colin Godbout, Nick Baniszewski, Abraham Paxtor, Colt Taylor and James Tweedt. With their help, the young wrestlers were taught the correct stance, basic wrestling moves and the rules.
In addition, Richardson told personal stories about his time as a collegiate wrestler at Carson-Newman College in Tennessee and discussed the dedication the high-endurance sport demands.
“Not everyone can be a wrestler,” Richardson said.
“It is my belief that every athlete is special. You have to be athletic, learn the rules of the sport and have the dedication while working on academics. To be a wrestler, though, takes an even more special individual. When you’re a wrestler, you’re also taking on physical, mental and weigh limitations.”
Those limitations are precisely what Richardson believes makes wrestling such a family sport, however.
“When you’re a wrestler, you’re dealing with these weight limitations so you have to get mom involved in the kitchen cooking [specially] for you. The tournaments you wrestle at are all day long on Saturdays, so the family comes out for the experience. Everyone gets involved,” Richardson said.
During the season, wrestlers, who are weighed by officials before each meet to make sure they don’t exceed the limits of their weight class, typically follow a high-protein, low-carb diet. Nutrition-conscious wrestlers often limit their sale intake to prevent excess water retention and tend to turn their backs on dessert.
The benefit to this youth camp is exposing the young athletes to the rudiments of what it takes to wrestle in high school while teaching them the fundamentals, Richardson said. The camp, and youth camps such as this in general, could also give the young athletes a competitive advantage, he said.
Julie Case, who enrolled her son Jennings in the camp, said wrestling appeals to her because the mat offers a more even playing field than other sports, such as football, where smaller boys can be at a disadvantage.
“He is smaller than most boys his age,” she said.
“Wrestling gives him the opportunity to compete against boys his own size. Participating in camps at a young age will give him a competitive advantage when he joins the middle school team.”
Richardson says the youth camp was about two things: learning the rules and having fun. Richardson also says he tries to teach his wrestlers how to be good men first and good wrestlers second.
“Everyone says ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir’ and when we go to an away game, those bleachers are spotless before they are allowed to leave. Wrestling, because of the discipline it takes, teaches them these things inherently.”
For those interested, Nation Ford has a youth team for students 6 years old and up. The team will begin in November and is coached by Marc Cripe. According to Richardson, getting children actively involved in wrestling at a young age can cultivate a love for the sport that will transition through high school and beyond.
Nation Ford’s wrestling program is still in building mode.
“Our camp isn’t as big as Fort Mill’s is but we’re working on it,” Richardson said.
“Right now, our program is an offshoot of what Coach [Chris] Brock has done at Fort Mill. The kids who are going to Nation Ford wanted their own youth team and camp so that’s what we’re establishing.”
Despite the relative youth of Nation Ford’s wrestling program, the team boasts two state champion wrestlers in the past four years.
“We have kids that are willing to work hard and are dedicated to what they do,” Richardson said.