BACK ROW: COACH MAC SCARLETT, COACH CJ WILKERSON, COACH CARL WILKERSON, COACH CHANTELL NOFFSINGER, TREVOR ATKINSON, LUIS HERNANDEZ, KALEB SANDERS, BROCK STUBBS, COLDEN CLARK, SAVEREN WRIGHT, COACH CLINT PERDUE; MIDDLE ROW: KEYLEE, DARIEN DEWEY, KULLY KULASINSKI, OSCAR NOFFSINGER, AVE WRIGHT, DAVID KELLER, GARRETT PETIT, ANDREI DONAYRI, CARSON CLARK; FRONT ROW: SERENITY NOFFSINGER, EASTON HARMON, ABEL RICH, BECKAM STEPHENS, AXEL HARMON. Rachel Sanders/The Creswell Chronicle
For youngsters who may be interested in wrestling, the Creswell Mat Club offers a taste of wrestling before high school, teaching children from preschool to eighth grade how to move on the wrestling mat.
The club was formed over 10 years ago by Brian Dunn, because there was not a school-sponsored program in the lower levels.
Years later, it is still a bustling club, with a focus on having fun and teaching moves.
The Folk Style season has ended for the year. Forty participants had signed up at the beginning of the season, though the club finished out with just over 20 kids.
Participation always fluctuates over the season. Coach Clint Perdue said the coaches know every year they are going to lose a lot of new kids and retain only a few of them, though the club has ”been blessed with almost always having 50 percent new kids” join each year.
Wrestling is not an easy sport.
”Some kids have a difficult time because it’s demanding and not a comfortable sport. But the kids who get past that first year have exponential growth,” said Carl Wilkerson, one of the coaches. ”You get out of it what you put into it.”
Wrestling to Perdue is the ultimate sport. Although it is individualized and winning or losing is based on the person, there is still a team element that pushes every member to be better.
”You can’t get better by yourself,” Perdue said.
Perdue said that every year there are kids who stand out, win multiple tournaments and beat everyone in their age group. This year there were a handful who placed at State.
”Kids this year have done really good,” he said.
President of the Mat Club Rachel Sanders said that while team sports have their place, if an athlete shows up to a game and is not feeling ”in the moment,” the team can still win.
After that, it’s all over.
”You do that in a wrestling meet that’s all day and show up at half mast – you’re done,” she explained. ”It takes a special kid, but family support too. It’s a huge commitment.”
While family involvement is an important aspect to the wrestlers, Wilkerson said that the club in general offers a family atmosphere to the kids.
With five coaches, each child gets individual time.
”It gives some of them a positive male role model,” he said.
That connection follows children beyond the mat, Crystal Perdue, family resource coordinator at Creslane Elementary School said.
She said she sees how wrestling changes the children’s behavior. Crystal Perdue said if they have some behavior difficulties, during wrestling season, their demeanor changes.
They become more positive.
She mentioned one student in particular, David Keller, wrote an assignment about wrestling. She said that he wrote that his goal was to be a professional wrestler, and he lined up goals to get him there.
Clint Perdue said that with wrestling, even if a child is naturally gifted or has more experience, a driven child who works hard can sometimes beat out those other traits.
He said that it offers the children lessons that no matter what, they can still find some advantage.
The biggest challenge facing the club is a lack of space for practice. With all the kids at different levels and training in both folk and free styles, there isn’t a space dedicated only for the Mat Club.
Sanders said that at the moment they train upstairs, behind the bleachers at the high school; however, that space is going to be turned into batting cages in the future.
Until then, Sanders said they club will continue until they can’t because of what it offers the kids.
”Regardless of a win, the kids walk off mentally and emotionally stronger,” she said. ”It brings tears to my eyes because you see a little person grow.”