Sunday, July 23, 2017 This Week's Paper

Building a solid foundation

// Local wrestlers, coaches team up to teach youth

In looking at the current state of wrestling in Tacoma, many local coaches and former high school wrestlers are in agreement in a big issue – the need to expose kids to the sport at a younger age. With that in mind, several such figures combined forces to offer “Camp Destiny,” a five-day, reasonably priced camp at Foss High School on July 17-21, hosted by Falcons’ head coach Ron Ellis.

“We want to start developing and exposing our kids at the elementary school level, and by the time they hit middle school they have a solid base and philosophy of wrestling,” Ellis said. “And we can carry that on...we don’t care what high school they go to, we’re developing wrestling in all of Tacoma, so we would like all the high schools to be good.”

Ellis added that another big emphasis is to strengthen local girls’ programs, as almost a quarter of the camp’s 60 attendees – who ranged in age from six to 19 years old – were girls.

Lincoln grad K.C. Walsh, a two-time state champion for the Abes who moved on to wrestle at Boise State, was on hand to demonstrate several of the techniques and strategies that wrestlers would later practice in small groups.

“We’re trying to create awareness and get the spark back for wrestling,” said Walsh, who recently competed at the 2012 Olympic Wrestling Trials. “It’s taught us so many things about life in general…we’d like to give that back to the kids around the community.”

Along with Ellis and Walsh, instructors included former Wilson High state champ and current Tahoma High assistant Tim Kitchen, former Prosser High and Oregon State Wrestler Matt Ellis, Lincoln’s Ed LaCross and Auburn’s Carl Neese, a former Foss, Stadium and Wilson coach returning next year for his second stint with the Falcons.

“This is like the beginning exposure. For years wrestling has only been starting in November and ending in March, and that’s what they think the sport is,” said Neese, adding that in beginning to pursue the sport year-round, Tacoma wrestlers would hopefully be more represented at the Mat Classic at the Tacoma Dome. “That’s what we’re working at, to get these kids to think that it is real, they can get there. It’s working, they’re catching on.”

Ellis said that while this was the first year the camp was held at Foss, he will hold the camp again next year and most likely in the coming years as well. And while the emphasis is developing wrestling technique, Walsh noted that there are other benefits for local kids.

“One of the biggest things we teach is promoting work ethic,” Walsh said. “Everybody knows wrestlers are hard workers. If we get kids working hard at a young age, hopefully it’s going to hopefully transfer in the classroom, in other sports or at home around the house.”