Young grapplers sharpen skills at summer wrestling camp
Some Sussex County children got to burn some excess energy and learn a new sport this week at the Sussex Central High School’s first pee-wee and youth wrestling clinic, held July 9 to 13.
The volunteer boosters, parents and local coaches helped make the camp a success by giving back to their community, said Rodney Layfield, head pee-wee coach.
“I hope we’re able to provide a service to the whole county. I’m not aware of any local programs that do anything in the middle of summer,” Layfield said. “I look forward to the opportunity to help out with the kids.”
Introducing children to the program at a young age helps get them into feeder programs at the middle-school level, according to Layfield, so they can then dive into high-school sports.
“Wrestling is different from a lot of sports. It’s tough on little kids,” said Layfield, noting that is why the campers will practice together but not enroll in official youth tournaments. “It builds good young men, and that’s important. You can find people all over the place that have come through the program,” he said of SCHS’s wrestling program.
For two hours each night, children learned the basics of wrestling from Sussex Central’s award-winning athletes. Many varsity wrestlers, past and present, made guest appearances at the camp to help train the kids.
“We’re going to target a different aspect of wrestling throughout the week [with the] ‘Crawl, walk, run’ philosophy,” explained Layfield.
The introductory clinic helped novice youth wrestlers with basic moves and skills: top, bottom and neutral starting positions; rules and beginner strategy; and some advanced moves to build a solid foundation for future growth, according to the registration flyer. Advanced wrestlers were challenged with a higher scope of instruction.
The 35 students split into two groups, based on age and experience. After each practice match, the coaches identified ways they could improve.
Having coached SCHS wrestling since 1976, Phil Shultie is one of the “winning-est coaches in Delaware,” said Layfield. And Shultie saw many familiar faces among the campers and their parents.
“Every adult that’s up there, I’ve coached. It’s great to see them give back, keep the tradition going,” Shultie said.
Current Sussex Central wrestlers explained the importance of teaching a sport to children at a younger age.
“It helps when they get older to have a background, not just start in high school,” said incoming senior Jeremy West.
“It keeps the tradition going. This is the age when we started, 5 or 6,” said fellow senior Jacob Miller.
The wrestlers said they hope to give Shultie his 400th career coaching win this year.
The campers were full of energy and strength, zipping around the gymnasium, grappling eagerly and showing off moves, even after camp ended each night. Although they’re new to the sport, Layfield pointed out that they already demonstrated wrestling basics, such as pushing the opponent’s head or aiming for the legs. Alongside the wrestling mats, they cheered and encouraged each other all night. Many parents watched from around the gym.
John Lawson, 5, was attending camp for the first time. He took to the mat while his mom, Christina, watched.
“His dad wrestled in school, so he’s talked about it, and [John] wanted to do it. He won a couple!” said Christina Lawson, pointing to the practice mat.
“Come out and have some fun,” said Shultie. “People enjoy it. We’re excited.”
For the $35 fee, campers received training and a T-shirt, and a barbecue cookout was planned for the final night.
For more information about youth wrestling camps in summer and winter, contact Indian River School District Adult Education program at (302) 732-1343 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.