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Area AAU wrestling program readies participants for next level

The Johnson City Wrestling Club has opened the doors of Science Hill High School to area children in kindergarten through seventh grade.
The AAU-affiliated youth wrestling program has just finished its first official week of practice, but according to head coach and program leader, Don Riley, kids are still encouraged to signup.
Wrestling is a unique sport, different from football, basketball and baseball in many ways. Perhaps the greatest difference is the amount of technical skill needed to be successful in the sport.
Because most high schools in the area, including Daniel Boone and David Crockett have programs of their own, a youth wrestling program is helpful to verse young wrestlers in the sport before they go on to join their respective high school teams a few years down the road.
“We want to get kids ready for wrestling on the high school level, not just for Science Hill but for Crockett and Boone too,” Riley said.
According to Riley, the program isn’t just about teaching kids how to wrestle; it is also a great character builder.
“We want to teach these kids many different lessons and this sport is a great way to do that,” Riley said. “From the importance of hard work, to dedication, courage and integrity; we really try to enhance these traits.”
Wrestling is also a great training method for other sports. In Riley’s opinion, there isn’t another sport that strengthens endurance like wrestling.
“We have kids wrestling who participate in several other sports and the conditioning that wrestling offers is a great help to increase the endurance of an athlete.”
Midway through the first week of practice, Riley already has 60 wrestlers. Practice is held three times a week — Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday — from 6 to 7:45 p.m.
Riley has enlisted the help of several young assistant coaches, most of which are former state champions or state placers. Practice is broken down in age groups, with the first part utilized as instruction time and conditioning and the last as an opportunity to live wrestle.
“The best wrestler is the kid who has the most mat time,” Riley said. “Live wrestling is a pivotal part of our philosophy.”
Several AAU competitions are held throughout the wrestling season, with two local tournaments, one on Thursday, Jan. 13, and another on Saturday, Jan. 29.
The tournaments are each expected to draw anywhere from 300 to 450 kids.
Other competitions in the area will be available, with transportation to and from the tournament usually the responsibility of the parent.
Riley and other coaches will be at the events to guide their young wrestlers on the mat.
The JC Wrestling Club is available for any boy or girl at a cost of $60, which includes an AAU membership card and club T-shirt. Scholarships are available.
For more information, call Riley at 791-0087.