West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker
National Wrestling Hall of Famer

School Wrestling vs. Club Wrestling

March 17, 2009

In an age when specializing in a specific sport has become prominent in our society, wrestling is no exception. Many area wrestlers presently attend club practices after their normal sessions with the school team. Is this good or bad? It depends.

If a school has an outstanding wrestling coach, who has previously produced championship teams and wrestlers, I see no need for club wrestling during the season. Furthermore, the philosophies of the school and club coaches may conflict, which would only confuse the young, impressionable mat man. No experienced coach is going to allow a club coach to undermind him or his program. In fact, he's most likely going to state: "During the season, none of my wrestlers are permitted to attend club practices. If a wrestler breaks this rule, he is off the school team."

On the other hand, should the coach at a school be "wet-under-the-ears" regarding the mat sport, then club wrestling is a justified alternative for the more gifted and serious mat men. In fact, the school coach might promote such a move by his wrestlers. However, this inexperienced coach MUST demand that the wrestlers attend all his practices, and not skip his workouts for club practice.

A question that has often been asked is "Can a wrestler compete in open tournaments with his club team during wrestling season without losing eligibility on his school team? I can only speak for the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission's position, regarding this concern. However, I believe all state associations have similar policies on club sports.

Let's say John Doe, who wrestles at Grappling (WV) High School, also participates on the Takedown Club Team. His club coach wants him to gain some valuable experience by wrestling in a highly competitive open tournament at Mat Town, Ohio. Johnny can do so, but only if the following criteria are met:

1. To begin with, the school administration must grant Johnny permission to compete in an open wrestling tournament, and he must compete as wrestler with no affiliation to his school team.

2. Secondly, and just as important, Johnny's wrestling team must not have a match the same day as the open event. This would include any team on his high school squad: varsity, junior varsity, and freshman if it's a four-year school.

3. Finally, Johnny cannot compete under his school name (Grappling High School), or wear his school uniform (singlet). Again, he MUST compete as an independent, with no reference made to his school's team.
Another point to consider, which was previously mentioned, is the club coach's philosophy. As a father, here's what I would look for in such a mentor:
1. What teaching credentials does the club coach have working with adolescent athletes?
2. What is the club coach's wrestling background?
3. Does the club coach focus on folkstyle or freestyle? (Remember, scholastic and collegiate wrestling is folkstyle. In other words, what is the prime reason for your boy/girl being there?)
4. Is safety and hygiene an important concern in the club program?
5. Are the "basics or essentials" of wrestling still emphasized, along with the more sophisticated moves taught?
6. Is drilling a strong segment of the practice workouts?
7. Does the coach spend equal time with all club members?
8. Is proper technique stressed at all times?
9. How much emphasis does the coach place on winning?
10. Does the club coach undermine the school coaches?
These are things, as a parent, you must consider when sending your son or daughter to a wrestling club program. In all fairness, I come from a very strong scholastic wrestling program with outstanding "Hall of Fame" coaches. They understood the mat sport completely, but more importantly, they understood the nature of young wrestlers.

When you decide to send your son or daughter to a wrestling club, see to it that the club coach has your child's best interest in mind, and it will be a very positive experience.

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