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Croatians take in Oklahoma State wrestling camp

STILLWATER, Okla. - They barely speak English. All they know is Greco-Roman. Yet, a team from Croatia ventured some 5,425 miles to participate in the Oklahoma State Wrestling Camp.

It has been a learning experience for a team making its first trip across the Atlantic Ocean. Dalibor Vracan, the coach for the Croatian team, says his boys are a little confused.

Four boys from Zagreb, the Croatian capital, aged 13 and 14 made the trip to attend the camp. It has been a positive experience for the group that are getting this opportunity.

Croatia is part of the former Yugoslavia in a part of Europe that has been at war for much of the last two decades. The boys were very young at the time, but are now in a time when Croatia can help kids.

The country is in a position where it can now help kids develop through sports. This opportunity came about from a sports director that had studied at Oklahoma State and told Vracan of this opportunity. It has been something entirely new for the four teens and their coach.

"In Croatia, everybody practices Greco," Vracan said. "This is something new for us. We train in only Greco. This is a different style."

The Oklahoma State camp they are attending lasts until July 14. It is an intensive camp that includes workouts beginning at 6:30 a.m. and lasting until 9 p.m.

"Their biggest struggle is that they participate in Freestyle and Greco and know very little about Folkstyle wrestling (collegiate style)," Oklahoma State head wrestling coach and camp director John Smith said. "They get into some positions that they are unfamiliar with, but I think in the long run that it can help them be a little bit better in finishing their attacks.

"There is not much of a barrier. A couple of the kids speak English and you can tell they are kind of excited to practice their English here in America. It has been fun having them.²

Having a group come from so far away only enhances Smithıs wrestling camp. The camps have been full for several years, but Smith enjoys having a group from overseas and would welcome another group in the future.

"It would be nice to have a few more people from overseas," Smith said. "I think it is a good experience not only for them, but also for the student-athletes that are from Oklahoma or wherever.

"They get a chance to visit with them and compete against them in practice, it is definitely a different feel and a different style. Overall, it is a good experience for not only them, but us as well."

The young Croatians will spend an extra three days in Oklahoma before returning to Europe where they will attend a camp in Hungary before finishing their summer at a camp in their native Croatia. Vracan says they have enjoyed their stay in Oklahoma, and they have learned stuff that they can incorporate into their own style back home.
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