By Dawn Elizabeth Pandoliano, ParaglideFebruary 6, 2009
FORT BRAGG "You guys should be jogA,Aging right now, I shouldn't have to tell you that," Marty Bartram, head coach of the Rhino Wrestling Club in Fayetteville, calmly reminds his athletes at practice. Retired from the military, Bartram took over as head coach of Rhino Wrestling in 2004, after just two years as assistant coach to founder Chuck Smith. "I love the sport (wrestling)," Bartram said. "Seeing what (the sport) does, how it helps the boys and girls develop as people, I love watching and being a part of that." Good sportsmanship, disA,Acipline, perseverance and self-confidence are some of the skills these young athA,Aletes will develop. The ultiA,Amate goal, according to Bartram, is to promote good citizenship as the kids progress in their training. "Unlike most team sports, every one of these kids will get to wrestle," Bartram said. "They get to go out in the middle of the mat and go one on one with their oppoA,Anent. They can't throw a fit when they lose, punch the mat or toss their gear. They shake each other's hand at the end of the match, no matter who wins or loses. Those are lessons that will stay with them for life." Perhaps the most surprisA,Aing element is the age range of the nearly 50 young athA,Aletes who participate in the Rhino Wrestling Club - from as young as 4 years old to high school age. Although comprised of mostly military dependents, the club is open to non-miliA,Atary kids and features severA,Aal female wrestlers. Don't let the age range or gender fool you, all of the athletes are not only excited about wrestling, but they are goal oriented as well, Bartram said. With the number of athA,Aletes who come to practice, Bartram admits to getting help from a few assistant coaches. "Every single one of my assistant coaches are in the military," he said. "So, dependA,Aing on their schedule, it's not uncommon that I won't have the same two guys at a practice at once." Carlyle Narburgh, 11, a home-schooled sixth grader and one of the female grapplers said she is enthusiastic about what they are learning. "I think it's fun and it builds muscles," she said. "The best part is being able to go to tournaments and being around all the nice people. My parents love it, my brother wrestles too. Everyone in our famiA,Aly wrestles." Nathan Erisman, 5, is a beginner with the club. Nicknamed "The Beast" on the mat, Nathan is a young man of few words. "I like to wrestle, cause it's fun," said Nathan before bounding back onto the mat for practice. Nathan's dad, Lt. Col. Kerry Erisman, staff judge advocate, office of the XVIII Airborne Corps, wrestled briefly in high school, startA,Aing in the 10th grade. He said there's a reason for starting his son out so young. "(Wrestling is) good exercise and disciA,Apline. He gets to interact with other kids his age after school," Erisman said. As for any worry about injury, Erisman points out that kids have the same risk of minor bumps and bruises in any sport. "Wrestling's a contact sport and part of what they're learning is how to fight in a way that minimizes the risk of injury," he added. At just 9 years old, Cole Whittaker has his eye on the big prize - a championship trophy. He attends Butner Elementary School on Fort Bragg, has been wrestling for five years. "I like the competitiveness of the sport," said Whittaker. "I hope to master my skills as a wrestler to take first place at tournaA,Ament of champions." Tene Villareal is the mother of 6 year-old Daniel. She pointed out that he is a future world wrestling hopeful. "He's fascinated with WWE wrestling," Villareal said. "My husband, big Daniel, went online to research wrestling opportuA,Anities for our son and found the Rhino Wrestling Club. It's the closest thing to his dream right now to wrestle with the club." Being a mom, Villareal admits to worryA,Aing about the bloody noses and broken bones. She likes that her son is getting a chance to try out something he's interested in and make new friends. Villareal introduced her neighbor and friend, Sara Boneschans to the wrestling club as a solution to the high level of enerA,Agy, Sara's son, 4 year old Macario, has. "He is non-stop from the minute he wakes up to the minute he falls asleep," Boneschans said. "He loves ninjas and wrestling and we were looking to put him in something because he's hyperacA,Ative, so Rhino wrestling seemed like a good idea." After two months, Macario is no less active but he enjoys learning the moves and he practices on his older brothers at home Boneschans said. Villareal prides herself on being a tough mom when it comes to the sport of wrestling. She knows that at some point, Macario will experience a minor injury, but said that she will encourage him to keep going if it's something he likes to do. Rhino Wrestling Club is an Amateur Athletic Union and USA sanctioned wrestling club that meets three times a week at Jack Britt High School. With three levels of membership, parents and kids can choose how often and how long they practice. For more information on the opportunities available with the Rhino Wrestling Club, visit www.rhiA,Anowrestling. org on the Web.