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By Nancy K. Crevier



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By Nancy K. Crevier

Thanks to a huge commitment from Newtown High School assistant coach Steve Ford and Newtown resident Chris Bray, the Parks and Recreation Department is offering for the first time a wrestling program for local youth ages 14 and under.

The Newtown Youth Wrestling Club meets Wednesdays and Fridays, 7 to 9 pm, at the high school and according to coach Ford, the club is being met with a great deal of enthusiasm from the 20 or so young people and their parents presently involved.

“Every town around us has had a youth [wrestling] program,” said coach Ford. “Newtown had one for every other sport, but wrestling hasn’t been one [to have a youth program].”

Because he felt that the value of introducing younger students to the sport of wrestling was crucial to an improved high school squad, coach Ford joined forces with coach Bray to supply the adult commitment that has been missing in previous years to implement such a program.

Their many years of combined experience in the sport and in working with children will be a plus, they believe, to the success of the club. Coach Ford wrestled and has served as assistant wrestling coach at Newtown High School for seven years while coach Bray, also a former wrestler, has worked with middle school-aged youth and freestyle clubs in Danbury.

The men hope that the youth program will ultimately serve as a “feeder” program for the high school wrestling squad.

For now, though, said coach Ford, “The kids and their parents get to learn about the coaches and the sport, and the parents get a realistic view of what the children are learning. We encourage the parents to stay and watch the practices.”

The coaches spent a good part of the first two sessions, in September and October, and in December and January, explaining the levels of wrestling to the squad members. They try to incorporate a lot of play into learning the basic skills of the sport, such as “bucking bronco drills” to teach balance.

“Coach Bray has a great rapport with the kids and a good perspective on them,” said coach Ford. “We’ve had to become more imaginative in training the young kids.”

Wrestlers are taught basic skills, team building concepts and conditioning as part of the program, as coach Ford explains, “It’s a great place to take out aggression in a safe manner. We incorporate discipline and sportsmanship into what they are learning. Wrestling can really make a difference in kids’ lives.”

He points out that the high level of competition in sports as they approach high school rules out participation for many young people. Wrestling, however, is a sport at which children compete at their own size and level, he said.

“Kids who are not tall enough for basketball,” he added, “who don’t have the eye/hand coordination for baseball or are too small for football can wrestle. It’s a chance to go ‘muscle to muscle.’ ”

The boys and girls who have participated in the youth wrestling program for the first two sessions will also become USA Wrestling members when they enroll in the new session, slated to begin in March. Membership with USA Wrestling makes them eligible for freestyle tournaments, in which they can pit their newfound wrestling skills against other area wrestlers.

The spring program continues to be open enrollment, though, meaning that no previous experience is needed to join the club.

“Some of the kids are falling in love with the sport,” coach Ford states. “Wrestling is another choice to give the kids of our community.”

To join the Newtown Youth Wrestling Club contact the Parks and Recreation Department at 270-4340 or call Steve Ford at 426-6158 for more information.

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