By Cheryl Rodewig, The BayonetNovember 13, 2009
FORT BENNING, Ga. - Wrestling season is here. It gears up in November and lasts through March, making the perfect winter activity for kids who play sports during other seasons, said Air Force Lt. Col. Hiram Morales, head coach for the Child, Youth & School Services wrestling team.
"We at Fort Benning have a one-of-a-kind program - the largest program in the city, and for some age groups, probably the largest in the south Georgia area," Morales said. "We know many kids over the winter are not active with sports. Many are football players; others are baseball players, so this provides the perfect cross-training opportunity for them to stay fit in strength, in stamina, aerobic fitness, and also to remain flexible."
Members of the U.S. Army Combatives School demonstrated wrestling techniques for students Nov. 4 at Faith Middle School. They covered headlocks, how to defend being taken down, reversals and ways to escape.
Eleven-year-old Heath Suich, a sixth-grader at Faith Middle School and member of the Fort Benning wrestling team, practiced several moves with SSG Stephen Schmeichel, 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment.
"It's really fun, and it's something to do during the winter," said Heath, who started wrestling in kindergarten. "You get to tackle them on the mat and get them on their back and pin them. It's really awesome to be able to do the flips and take the other person down."
Heath said he enjoys wrestling because it helps him stay fit and helps with other sports. When he played soccer, it helped with balance; with baseball, it helps with arm strength for pitching, he said.
Eighth-grader Nikolas Dowdy, 14, said wrestling makes him a better football player.
"It helps with being more flexible with the twists and turns of football and being able to run farther," he said. "It (also) helps with your mind coordination. It's sort of like chess ... but in wrestling, you have to think quicker."
Morales, who has taught wrestling to children for 13 years, said the sport definitely has a mental side to it.
"It's not just the confidence he needs to have ... he has to be able to solve a problem very quickly before it turns into another problem," Morales said. "So many kids who are good at problem solving tend to do fairly well at wrestling."
Nikolas, who moved to post four months ago, said he enjoyed the demonstration and plans to join the team.
"It was pretty interesting to watch," he said. "Since they showed us the flips and I knew majors are going to be teaching us, I got excited, and I want to join. I can't wait."
Along with Morales, nine coaches help lead wrestling practices Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at Briant Wells Fieldhouse. Children are divided into two age categories: pre-K to fourth grade and fifth to eighth grades.
Morales said he is putting together a competitive team and is looking for more middle school students. For more information, call CYSS at 706-545-2079.