Wrestlers wanted: High school, youth seasons begin next week
For many young athletes in the Truckee area, winter means skiing and riding at local resorts, but for a growing group of youngsters and their families, cold weather signifies its time to hit the mats for wrestling season.
Heading into its fifth year, the Truckee Wrestling Club has continued to grow its roster of young grapplers, and will come into the 2019-20 season with roughly 35 wrestlers on the team.
“One of the things that I’ve really been pleased to see is the development of the wrestling community in Truckee,” said the program’s coach, Aaron Svitana. “This is a community that in the last 10 years hasn’t had deep roots in the sport … we’ve got a lot of these families that had no idea what the sport was two or three years ago, but they signed their kids up, and now they are so passionate about the sport.”
The program is open to boys and girls in kindergarten through eighth grade, and is designed to give youngsters foundational wrestling skills.
“I focus on the fun aspect,” said Svitana. “The key thing is we want to keep them interested and involved in the sport, so that by the time they are freshmen and sophomores in high school, they’ve got the foundation.”
For the youngest groups of wrestlers, Svitana said much of practice revolves around learning basics like tumbling, rolling, balancing, and developing quickness, which can help in other sports like soccer, football, lacrosse, and more.
“The really great thing about those functional body movement skills is that it translates and is very complimentary to other sports,” he said.
Aside from the physical aspects involved with wrestling, Svitana said the sport goes a long way in developing discipline and increasing confidence in young boys and girls.
“Wrestling is one of the sports that requires the most amount of individual discipline,” said Svitana. “The simple fact that it’s a one-on-one sport, the outcome of the match is in your own hands. The discipline and the fortitude that it takes for even a young kid to step out there alone against somebody else and take matters into their own hands, that’s tremendous character building. Those are life skills that you take beyond the sport.”
The program is slated to begin practices on Tuesday at the Truckee-Donner Recreation & Park District Community Recreation Center. Practices will be held Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. Fifth through eighth graders will practice 3:30 to 5 p.m. Third through fifth graders will practice 5 to 6:15 p.m., and kindergarten through second graders will be on the mats from 6:15 to 7 p.m. Signups cost $75 and can be done at apm.activecommunities.com/tdrpd/Activity_Search/youth-wrestling-fall-19-20/6112. The season runs until March 16.
“If you’re on the fence about signing up, bring your kid to practice,” said Svitana. “Let them join in, give it a test run for a practice or two, and lets go from there.”
High school wrestling will also get underway on Tuesday, bringing Truckee’s wrestlers out for the season’s first practices.
The team should have roughly 15 wrestlers this year, including 10 returners from last season.
Historically, the program has had to compete with other winter sports and activities in the area, but through the Truckee Wrestling Club, fifth-year Head Coach Jim Bennett is aiming to build a roster that can compete for individual titles in the coming seasons.
“It’s a real tough sell,” said Bennett on getting Truckee high school students to join the team. “But I think it starts with those youth kids, those kids that have done it since they were 6 or 7, and have fallen in love with the sport.”
This year’s team will have at least one girl, according to Bennett, who added that a few other female wrestlers may join by the time practice starts.
“It brings about self confidence. Obviously there’s athletic abilities, but with females there’s a lot of self-confidence, self-discipline, and there’s self-defense that goes along with that as well,” said Bennett.
“There’s been a big transition with female wrestling over the past 10 years. Female wrestling has gotten so big that now most states have their own female championship brackets and their own tournaments.”
Bennett also stressed the importance of playing multiple sports for young athletes, even if it’s not with his team on the mats.
“The best athletes play more than one sport,” he said. “My biggest thing is not necessarily to push wrestling as much as to tell kids to not specialize and to play more than one sport.”
The Wolverines will open the season on Nov. 30, with a junior varsity tournament at Reno High School. The team will then host its lone meet of the season, the Mountain Team Duals, on Dec. 3.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-550-2643.