During the summer, the few wrestling mats in Columbia County typically stay shoved into a corner until winter.
At Lakeside High, the mats were rolled out last week for the school's first-ever wrestling clinic.
The weeklong camp saw 34 wrestlers from Lakeside, Greenbrier and Washington-Wilkes high schools participate.
"There's camps all over the country, but we have to travel to North Carolina or Virginia to get to one," camp director Drew Brejda said. "My goal was to provide an affordable camp for Lakeside and the other local schools."
Washington-Wilkes wrestling coach Ed Lovvorn brought nine wrestlers in a bus trip that took only 45 minutes. He said he has taken his team as far as Virginia for camps. A morning drive down Interstate 20 to Lakeside was much cheaper.
"It's a matter of spending eight or nine hundred dollars compared to spending three or four thousand dollars," Lovvorn said. "It's good when you can go 45 minutes to get better rather than drive 10 hours to get better."
The camp's value went beyond its location. It also offered a chance to work with an Olympic medalist.
Nate Carr, who earned a bronze medal in the 1988 Olympic games in Seoul, Korea, and was a three-time NCAA champion at Iowa State, served as camp clinician for the week and instructed the high school wrestlers in the basics of the sport.
"I want them to take some of the things they do know, refine them and then practice them over and over again," Carr said during a break for lunch on Tuesday. "I'm not trying to impress them with big moves. They need to train the body as well as the mind."
After making his stop in Evans, Carr said he'll attend camps in New York, California, Boston, Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Jersey and West Virginia.
Carr acknowledged that many of the northern and Midwestern states have more established programs but said a camp like the one at Lakeside can help improve a wrestling program anywhere.
"This is a good way for these guys to get ahead," Carr said. "It's not wrestling season, and we're out here wrestling."
The camp also ushered in a new generation of wrestlers. Lakeside's 2005 wrestling state champion, Tim Mitchum, returned from the University of the Cumberlands this summer to help with the camp. Mitchum instructed wrestlers such as rising freshman K.J. Mode, who was new to the sport.
"This is only my second year," Mode said. "I've never been to a camp so this is my first chance. It's good because we've actually spent time working on this stuff and perfecting it."
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