Out with the old, in with the new
The three public schools have established separate programs
By Ben Pherson
So far, so good.
The Rochester Youth Wrestling Association disbanded after last season, but the move already is paying off for city wrestling programs.
When RYWA disbanded, it put the onus on the three Rochester public schools to create their own wrestling associations.
Each school stepped up, and now Century, Mayo and John Marshall all have separate programs for wrestlers in kindergarten through sixth grade.
It’s a move that has been in the works for years, and it’s something coaches feel will only help promote wrestling in Rochester.
"I definitely think this is going to be a positive," John Marshall coach Brian Parlin said. "We’re kind of trying to break it down into the small-school model, and the model some of the successful teams in the Big Nine Conference have used."
The new model splits youth wrestlers into groups according to which high school they likely will attend.
"We’ve kind of moved in this direction over a two- or three-year period," Century coach Steve Larsen said. "We tried to have just one wrestling club last year, but even a few years ago, coaches started discussing having their own clubs."
When Larsen first joined the Century program, there were two youth wrestling associations in Rochester — RYWA and The Matmen. This caused logistical problems.
"You wanted to be involved, but you couldn’t be in two places at once. And you didn’t know which kids were living in (the Century school boundaries) or not," Larsen said.
All three city coaches are hoping the move will lead to higher participation numbers, and eventually, more competitive varsity programs in Rochester.
While the switch to individual youth programs puts more organizational responsibility on the head coaches and their assistants, coaches say it’s worth it.
"It’s in our hands now," Parlin said. "Now everything is solely set up by us. We went out and created our own nonprofit, got our own board members; we’ve done our own recruiting. It’s up to us to put in the hard work, and if we don’t, it will be on our shoulders."
Century has reaped the most immediate rewards from the switch. Larsen said numbers in the youth program already have doubled, and registration is still open, meaning the number of youth wrestlers could grow between now and the first practice Dec. 2.
"Last year, we had 13 kids in grades K-2, and 13 more in grades 3-6. Now we have 26 kids in each of those groups," Larsen said.
Century and John Marshall open youth practice Dec. 2, with Mayo starting a day earlier. All three programs are hoping to keep fees low. At Century, it’s $35 to participate in the youth program, and it’s $45 at JM. The fee at Mayo is $75, though that includes a USA Wrestling membership. Registration for all three schools will remain open throughout the season.
When RYWA ended, it divvied up its remaining funds between the three schools, and the Southeastern Minnesota Wrestling Coalition also has chipped in money to get the programs off the ground. So far the money has been used for things like insurance, building rental and helping to keep fees low.
"We have a nice start. Our goal as a whole is to make Rochester wrestling better," Parlin said.
Assistant coach Art Trimble is president of the wrestling association at Mayo. Trimble said it will take a few years for Rochester varsity programs to see the benefits, but he believes the switch will pay off in the long run.
"It allows us to really work on the family aspect of wrestling," Trimble said. "It creates a sense of a wrestling family on our side of town, and everyone gets to work together the whole way through, and hopefully pick up some friends along the way."