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Kids improve their total wrestling through Greco-Roman at free Clinic of Champions at Lawrenceville, N.J.

Clinic Photos

"Wrestling is wrestling."

Three of the USA Wrestling's top Greco-Roman talents inspired and educated hundreds of young people of all ages during the day-long Clinic of Champions, held at the Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, N.J. on May 7.

The clinic was free for USA Wrestling members, and numerous kids, coaches and parents from around the region came to learn more wrestling. It was an opportunity to learn high-level technique, meet wrestling heroes and find out how to be better wrestlers in every wrestling style. USA Wrestling New Jersey organized and supported the clinic and opened it to everybody.

The first two hours were taught by National Greco-Roman Developmental Coach Ike Anderson, a 1988 Olympian and World Team member. Anderson gave a short rules clinic of Greco-Roman, warmed up the athletes, and taught a variety of takedown positions and tactics, including arm drags, arm throws, headlocks, slidebys and other moves. He showed the moves on Jay Antonelli, a U.S. World Team coach who was the former coach of the U.S. Marines team.

Anderson explained how learning Greco-Roman can make a wrestler better in all areas of the wrestling.

"What we can teach you can be used in every style of wrestling, freestyle, folkstyle and Greco-Roman," said Anderson. "It will help you build a tool box. Does a carpenter just come with a hammer to build a house? Of course not. He has lots of tools in his box. If he has something to fix, he finds the right tool. That is why you should learn all styles of wrestling."

"Come with an open mind," said Anderson. "We will show you a lot of moves. You can pick the ones you like and work for you. Then, you must practice them over and over again. That is what wrestling is about."

Anderson, who was a strong folkstyle and freestyle wrestler as a youth and in college, and chose to concentrate on Greco-Roman as an adult, challenged the wrestlers to continually try new things.

"You don't need to be a specialist. You need to learn to wrestle first. I want to be a great wrestler. I do folkstyle, freestyle, Greco-Roman, everything. I do what it takes to get better. Remember, summer wrestlers make winter champions," he said.

2002 World Champion Dremiel Byers, currently ranked No. 1 in the nation at 264.5 pounds, was the next clinician, and explained to the wrestlers about the importance of proper technique. He told the story of Turkish Greco-Roman star Hamza Yerlikaya, who as a youth was taught by a number of retired members of the national team who lived in his city. Yerlikaya learned outstanding technique, won a World title at the age of 17 and went on to capture two Olympic titles.

Byers focused on defensive skills in the bottom position, helping the athletes feel comfortable in stopping the opponent from turning him. He talked about being tough, and using the right skills to avoid being turned. He chose one of the nation's best young wrestlers to demonstrate with, New Jersey high school state champion Zack Rey, who was second at the 2005 Cadet National Championships in Greco-Roman.

"For two and a half years, I have not been turned by a gutwrench," said Byers. "There is going to be a fight there. You aren't getting a gutwrench on me."

Byers and Anderson also showed the proper technique from the bottom on how to stop the new reverse lift in Greco-Roman under the new rules. Anderson, who competed at 136.5 pounds as an athlete, asked Rey, who is well over 200 pounds, to try to lift him off the mat. He actually offered Rey $20 if he could lift him. Using good technique, Anderson was easily able to avoid being lifted by the talented and powerful Rey.

Byers ended his session with his patented move, the side lift, which he used to win his World title in 2002, where he scored a throw in every match. Byers taught the wrestlers how to lift the opponents off the mat, load them up and take them for a throw.

National Greco-Roman Coach Steve Fraser, a 1984 Olympic champion, was the final teacher at the clinic.

"Greco-Roman is a great sport in itself," said Fraser. "You can win a gold in the Olympic Games and win a national title in this style. And it helps you in your freestyle and folkstyle wrestling. Anything we show you here you can use in all kinds of wrestling."

Fraser started his session with some live wrestling, having the participants wrestle in some mini-bouts and try some of the techniques and lessons they had learned from the other clinicians.

"Coaches and parents, we have some Greco-Roman wrestlers in this group," said Fraser after the matches. "I now want to talk about the fight of wrestling. There are techniques, and then there is fight. You can use this in any style of wrestling. The one technique you need to know to fight in wrestling is the pummel."

Fraser taught the wrestlers how to pummel and move and get their opponents off balanced and how to keep the pressure on them. He called it "his dance," and encouraged the wrestlers to practice this until they developed their own style on their feet. He also showed them how a very effective "dance" where you keep coming at the opponent will cause the opponent to quit and break them mentally. "You will tire them out, so you can score easily," explained Fraser.

Fraser taught front headlock position, which is included in every style of wrestling. There was a variety of ways to use the move, which Fraser taught every angle and had the athletes practice. He then taught some basics from the reverse lock position which is prominent in Greco-Roman.

At the end of the clinic, Fraser brought all of the kids in, and told them some personal stories of his career, and encouraged them to set high goals.

"Everybody in here can be a great Greco-Roman wrestler," said Fraser. "This will help you in your freestyle and your folkstyle. If you want to be good in this sport, you can do it. If you are willing to work hard and overcome adversity, you can be good as you can be."

Many parents and athletes were very pleased and impressed with the clinic, and felt that participating in USA Wrestling programs in freestyle and Greco-Roman helped them to improve.

"The USA Wrestling program made my son a varsity wrestler," said parent Scott Oliverio. "What he learned in Greco-Roman and freestyle he brought into his scholastic wrestling. It has made a difference."

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