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|Future Olympians hone their skills during star-studded camp at Olympic Training Center|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - They call it the 2012 Future Olympian Camp for a reason.
Six years from now, some of the promising young stars taking part in this week's freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling camp at the United States Olympic Training Center may wind up strapping on a red, white and blue singlet to represent the U.S. at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England.
"I definitely think there are some kids who are in this camp who will make an Olympic Team some day," said Ike Anderson, USA Wrestling's National Development Coach for Greco-Roman. "It could be in 2012, or maybe even 2016, but these kids are our future stars and our next Olympians. We brought them out here to give them an opportunity to hone their skills and see what it takes to be an Olympian."
Eighty of the nation's best Junior and Cadet wrestlers are taking part in the camp, which runs from July 9-16 and includes instruction in freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling from some of the best coaches in the country. The athletes are being trained in technique, strength and conditioning sessions along with wrestling live.
The wrestlers also spend an hour each day studying video. The athletes are staying at the dorms at the Olympic Training Center and eating their meals at the OTC training table.
Athletes who placed in the top six at Junior Nationals or in the top four at Cadet Nationals are eligible to take part in the camp.
"The interesting thing about these kids is how rapidly they will pick things up," said Dave Bennett, USA Wrestling's National Development Coach for freestyle. "It's fun to work with them because they are so quick to grasp the concept of what you are teaching. These are our elite kids. They've already proven they can win at the national level and they are making the commitment by coming out here to keep getting better."
Among the coaches the athletes are working with during the camp are USA Wrestling coaches in Anderson, Bennett, Kevin Jackson, Steve Fraser and Terry Brands. Jackson and Fraser were Olympic champions, Brands was a two-time World champion and Olympic bronze medalist, and Anderson was an Olympian.
Lehigh coach Greg Strobel, Nebraska coach Mark Manning, Wisconsin assistant coach Bart Chelesvig and Oak Park (Mo.) High School coach Gary Mayabb also are conducting sessions during the camp. Strobel is a past Olympic coach and Manning a past World Team coach.
For a majority of the athletes in Colorado, this week's camp also serves as preparation for the ASICS/Vaughan Junior Nationals and Accelerade Cadet Nationals on July 22-29 in Fargo, N.D. After they leave Colorado, many of the athletes will return home to take part in their state's training camp before leaving to compete in Fargo.
Among those wrestlers preparing for Fargo is Boise State recruit Adam Hall, who placed second in Junior Nationals in freestyle in 2005. Hall, a three-time Idaho state champion, was named Outstanding Wrestler earlier this year at the NHSCA High School Senior Nationals in folkstyle.
"Being around so many elite athletes and having guys like Kevin Jackson, Terry Brands, Steve Fraser and Ike Anderson come in to coach us, it's like we're resident-athletes here," Hall said. "The coaches have told us that we are the future for USA Wrestling on the Senior level as far as Olympic medalists and World medalists. When you hear that, it's definitely a big motivator. It's great to have an opportunity to train in this kind of environment."
Among the other young studs in Colorado Springs this week is Junior Hodge Trophy winner David Craig of Florida, the nation's top high school wrestler. Craig, a Lehigh recruit, won Junior Nationals in freestyle and Greco-Roman last year at 171 pounds. Craig received the Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award in June from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
"Working with these Olympic coaches, you can't beat that," said Craig, who has attended this camp the past four seasons. "They teach on the highest level so they obviously know what they're talking about. They've taught us some great techniques and given us a lot of pointers that will help us improve. Every year I've been out here I've noticed a jump in my own level of wrestling."
Scott Jones, the head coach at powerhouse Lakeside High School in Spokane, Wash., said he's impressed by the impact the camp has had on his son. Levi Jones, a Boise State recruit, has taken part in the camp for three years.
"You can't get this type of instruction anywhere else in the nation," Coach Jones said. "The kids leave after a week here and their level of wrestling has jumped three or four times. It's amazing. It's noticeable right away the improvement they make. It's an opportunity to learn from some great coaches and to wrestle and train with kids who are chasing the same goals they are. It's awesome. Something magical happens when kids come out here."