When it comes to creating a well-rounded athlete with body awareness of multiple muscle groups, La Jolla High School’s strength and conditioning coach Ryan Lennard has an idea to wrestle with. He and assistant coach John Turnbull have revived the La Jolla Youth Wrestling club, and will start meeting Tuesday, Oct. 20.
Hosted at La Jolla High School (but not affiliated with the school or its wrestling team), the club will meet 6:30-8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays in the wrestling room on the 750 Nautilus St. campus. Open to boys and girls, ages 8 through eighth-grade, the club will run through mid-February. The cost for the five-month program is $200 and includes a sweatshirt and singlet (the uniform worn in wrestling). Participants must purchase their own wrestling shoes.
The club is the only wrestling club in La Jolla and one of few in San Diego. La Jolla had a youth wrestling club several years ago, but when the head coach moved, there was no one else to take the reins.
“Wrestling is really good for youth because you use your whole body and learn balance, flexibility and coordination,” Lennard said. “With a lot of other sports, you just learn a certain set of skills and a motor pattern specific to that sport.” Additionally, he said wrestling provides a foundation of muscle awareness for when young participants want to become multi-sport athletes later in life.
Speaking from experience, Turnbull said his time in a youth wrestling program prepared him to thrive in football. “I learned a lot during my time as a youth wrestler: how to work hard toward a personal goal, how to manage my time as a student-athlete and how to apply focused attention,” he said. “This sport has given me a lot in my life, and my hope is that we can provide the same experiences for as many young athletes as possible.”
Lennard added, “There is a certain personality type that meshes well with wrestling, and that is the kid with lots of energy who loves physical contact. Young kids tend to wrestle around with their friends just because it’s fun, they don’t understand how to do it properly, but this is a great way to get some structure involved but still have that energy outlet.”
Turnbull said the sport is also good for young athletes who like to be challenged. “When you are put in a one-on-one situation where you are the only one who controls your own destiny, kids tend to rise to that challenge,” he said.
The classes will be held on heavily padded mats and exercises will involve rolling, flipping and tumbling. There will also be a few technique-based exercises for the athletes to practice. “It’s going to be ‘hey, we have an hour and a half, let’s have some fun and learn a move or two a day,’ “ Lennard said. “For the most part, we are going to let them tumble and learn how to safely wrestle.”
Turnbull said he started wrestling when he was 5 years old, and the early lessons motivated him and provided friends he is still close to 20 years later.
With most of the participants expected to be new to the sport, Lennard said instruction will build from ground up, and athletes will not be pushed to compete. “There are tournaments and if they want to compete and feel comfortable with it, we’ll encourage it, but for now, we’re just going to create a fun environment.”