Young wrestlers finally have a local option to stay in shape over the summer.
As many as 25 wrestlers meet three times a week at Evans Middle School. Led by parents, the two-hour workouts are mostly attended by area middle school and young high school athletes looking to learn about the sport and prepare for the upcoming season.
Gralyn Harris, a parent who directs the work on the mat each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, said the first-year program began last winter.
"The genesis of this was at the region tournament," he said. "The coaches from Greenbrier and Evans ran into one another and asked me to do a type of spring training. We took that idea and, with the help of (Evans Middle School) Principal (Michael) Johnson, we were able to do something this summer."
Johnson opens the middle school gym for the workouts.
"We're trying to get this going at the middle school level. We'd like to have a feeder program for the high schools," Johnson said. "It depends on the interest we have and if we have a coach who can work it, but I see it as just another program the students can be involved in that's positive."
Lakeside High School, the county's longtime wrestling powerhouse, also offers workouts during the summer for its wrestlers. The workouts at Evans Middle cater more to beginners and middle school pupils.
Harris said the program for young athletes is filling a need in the local wrestling community.
"In other states, kids start wrestling in third or fourth grade," Harris said. "Georgia is behind the curve."
Harris said he turned the summer workouts into an AAU club team and joined with Fit for Life Development - an organization based in Savannah, Ga., that helps with the paperwork.
"That way we're a nonprofit organization and can raise money for traveling to tournaments," Harris said.
The club has already hit the mat in tournaments in North Carolina and Michigan.
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