Let's get physical

Youth learn moves, techniques at wrestling camp
By: Matt Long
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Christopher Lee had never wrestled before, but that didn’t keep him from attending the sixth annual El Dorado Hills Wrestling Camp. Lee, a 9-year-old fourth grader at Lake Forest Elementary School, didn’t look out of place facing off against more experienced wrestlers at the camp held last week at Golden Hills School, despite the fact that he was the least experienced of the group. “I’ve learned how to keep your balance and how to headlock people,” Lee said. “I like taking people down. It’s a technical sport and I like that because I’m also into skateboarding and that’s a technical sport too.” Thirty athletes from second grade up to high school kids attending the camp and learned the tricks of the trade from Camp Director Benjamin West, along with his staff including former Oak Ridge wrestlers Andy Wagner, a 2006 graduate who is now wrestling at Cal Poly and Kyle West and Joey Pacific, who both graduated this spring. Camp clinicians included UC Davis head coach Lennie Zelesky and two of his assistants in Kevin Stanley and Alex Tirapele. “Our goal is for every one of these kids to fill in at least one or two gaps in their game,” Benjamin West said. “We look at each kid and see what they do well and then we give them something else they can use to help them. If we can add one, two or three things to what they do, that is what we’re trying to do.” West said in many summer wrestling camps a big name is brought in to draw a crowd, but that often the camper-to-staff ratio is 20-to-1 or even higher. He’s proud of the fact that the ratio at this camp is no higher than 10-to-1. The staff worked the campers daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., teaching them different moves, techniques and series’ of moves that the wrestlers could add to their repertoire. Pacific was there to show his Chancellor series, moves involving his headlock to cradle moves. “Joey’s so dynamic with his duck under to near-side cradle,” West said. “He got a lot of first-period pins with that move. “That’s what we’re trying to do here. You may walk on to the mat knowing you can’t beat your opponent, but you can pin them. The pin in wrestling is like the knockout punch in boxing. That’s another thing we’re trying to teach the kids. They can be losing a match 14-0 and can still pin their opponent and beat him.” For Wagner, this was his third or fourth year of coming back home to teach a new group of wrestlers. He had a lot of fun showing the youngsters what he’s learned throughout his wrestling career. “I like coming back here because you always want to see your alma mater do well and most of these kids will probably go to Oak Ridge,” Wagner said. “This helps the feeder program. “Also, I love wrestling so it’s always fun to teach something that you’re passionate about. Watching a second grader learn a new move is pretty cool.”