Some of the most decorated wrestlers of all-time descended upon Gainesville to share their years of experience with the next generation of wrestlers on how to perform on and off the mat.
This was the second consecutive year that the Champion Wrestling Camps were held at Riverside Military Academy, after over a decade at The Citadel in Charleston, with more than 100 middle and high school students from North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia.
Olympic Gold Medalist Kendall Cross, two-time Olympic coach Rob Hermann and Wade Schalles, who is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most wins and the most pins of anyone in the history of wrestling, joined former NCAA All-American and camp director Jeff Ragan to provide instruction for the four-day overnight camp that wraps up today.
“We have one common goal,” Ragan said. “We want to make kids better around the country.”
Other instructors included NCAA All-American Taylor Knapp, two-time All-American Peter Yates, NCAA finalist TJ Dudley, NCAA qualifier Sean Russell, three-time Southern Conference finalist Marshall Haas, two-time NCAA qualifier Clark Glass, NCAA qualifier Ryan Medved and undefeated Georgia high school wrestler Bazell “Poo Bear” Partridge.
“Very few times do kids get a chance to work with or be around someone of the caliber that they got to be around,” Ragan said. “We see these movie stars, we see these amazing athletes on TV and we don’t really get a chance to know them.
“For these kids to hear the life stories of these coaches, for these kids to see (these coaches) are human. They bleed, they struggle, they work hard then I think that makes (the kids) feel like anything they set their goals to, they can accomplish.”
Aside from teaching strong wrestling techniques and strategies, Schalles said what he really wants to instill in the campers is the mindset to “think big.”
“If you don’t put yourself there mentally before you get there physically,” he said. “You’ll never get there physically.
“We’re planting dream seeds in the kids of what they can be as a student, as a person, as a father, as a husband, as a civic individual being a mayor of a town or whatever.”
“I want these kids to feel success,” Ragan said. “When they feel success then they work harder and that transitions into their business world, their work world, their family life, their marriage life.
“If you’ve got wrestling in your background, then you’ve learned great life lessons.”