Army wrestling coach gives local youngsters some pointers
DANBURY –– Army wrestling coach Kevin Ward has had a busy couple of months, having relocated from Ouichita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark., last month to West Point, N.Y., to take on his new head coaching job.
Even during his period of transition, however, Ward wasn't too busy to swing by the Danbury Sports Dome on Monday evening and offer some helpful hints to the approximately 30 aspiring youth wrestlers at the Beast Training Wrestling Club.
Beast Training Wrestling Club – Kevin Ward Wrestling Clinic
"I think a lot of times I have more fun coaching the kids," Ward said with a smile prior to the clinic. "They always have a lot of energy, they ask a lot of good questions and they keep you on your toes, so to speak."
Ward gave the kids some pointers on wrestling technique, and also talked to them about work ethic and discipline – lessons that will pay off both on the mat and in life.
"Everywhere I go and do clinics, I coach the kids the same way I coach my team," Ward said.
And he's got some pretty impressive credentials to back that up, too.
Prior to taking the reins in West Point, Ward was named the NCAA Division II Coach of the Year after leading Ouichita Baptist to a fourth–place finish at the NCAA championships, the Tigers' third straight top–15 finish at the NCAAs. Ward was the first and only head wrestling coach in Ouichita Baptist's history, building the program from the ground up following its inception in 2010.
Ward wrestled for powerhouse Oklahoma State, which won four straight NCAA championships during his career from 2002–06. He was the Big–12 Conference champion at 157 pounds in 2005.
Now in its second year of operation, the Beast Training Wrestling Club is an elite–level program for middle school and elementary school wrestlers. The team competes with other elite club teams throughout the Northeast. It's a year–round program, although its busiest time of year is its winter session from October to March. Having Ward stop by was certainly a nice way to kick off the season.
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NCAA Champion Gillespie pays visit to Danbury's Beast Training Wrestling Club
DANBURY –– It's not every day an NCAA wrestling champion breezes through town, so the members of Danbury's Beast Training Wrestling Club weren't about to miss their opportunity to learn from one.
Gregor Gillespie, the 2007 NCAA champion at the 149 class who put together a career mark of 152–13 while attending Edinboro College from 2006–09, came to Danbury's SportsDome Friday evening to give tips to a wide–eyed group of youth wrestlers, ranging from grades 3–8.
Needless to say, the wrestlers were more than happy to accommodate their special guest.
"It's going to be amazing having him here. It's going to be a lot of fun," said Michael Garner, a 14–year–old from Danbury. "Beast is very friendly. You get to know all the kids here and it's fun."
"I think (Gillespie will) teach us a lot of good moves that we might use," said Mikey Longo, a 10–year old from Wilton. "It's fun (competing against wrestlers from other states). It makes you a better wrestler."
After about 15 minutes of warm–ups, team members in attendance for Friday night's session paired off with wrestling partners, frequently alternating. In between wrestling sessions, Gillespie would speak to the campers and give demonstrations on the mat with other coaches.
Having Gillespie dole out pointers may have just been the icing on the cake for the 25 or so students who attended. Beast Training head coach Fred Mills, along with assistants Tyler Banks (two-time Connecticut state open champion and former Division 1 wrestler at Hofstra) and Tucker Schaefer (two–time Class LL state champion), have aimed to create a culture where the wrestlers genuinely enjoy going to practice.
"We want to make it fun for them. We want to feed all the high schools in the area," Mills said. "We want them to know that if you have kids that have outgrown the leagues or some of the things in the area that they can train here. Whether it's Danbury or Newtown or any of these teams, we want them to have New England champions that came from Beast."
Parents have noted a very welcoming and character–building environment at Beast Training.
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Local wrestlers get a few tips from a national champion
Richard Gregory – Friday, December 20, 2013
DANBURY –– To be the best, it often helps to learn from the best. And that's exactly what the youngsters in the Beast Training Wrestling Club were doing last Friday night.
Steve Bozak, a national champion and three–time All–American at Cornell, stopped by the youth wrestling team's practice at the Danbury Sports Dome to offer some words of advice to a group of about 30 future stars.
"I always enjoy coming back and teaching the kids how to wrestle, different techniques," Bozak said prior to putting on his clinic for the elementary–school and middle–school wrestlers. "I feel like I was exposed to a lot of things at a young age and I just love coming here and making it fun for the kids and teaching them a few things."
Bozak had simple –– yet important –– advice for the coaches of any youth sports team:
"Make sure you keep it fun," Bozak said. "Obviously, you want to prioritize and set goals, but if they're not having fun doing it, you have to find a way to make it fun."
In fact, one of the biggest reasons Bozak stayed involved in wrestling as a youngster and was so successful at it as he got older was because he enjoyed it.
"For most of the time, it was fun," said Bozak, who started wrestling when he was 6. "Sprints at the end of practice are never the most fun things, and I never particularly loved those, but the majority of my wrestling career, I loved it and I wouldn't replace it with anything."
Bozak certainly must've enjoyed winning the 2012 national title in the 184–pound weight class. Bozak finished his career at Cornell with a 130–30 record and is seventh in school history in career wins.
The Beast Training Wrestling Club is in its first year of operation under head coach Fred Mills' watchful eye. Mills, a longtime coach with Danbury Youth Wrestling, started the Beast Training club earlier this year to more experienced, elite–level youth wrestlers. Check out the club's website at BeastTrainingWrestlingClub.com.