10-year-old Lincoln youngster eyes state wrestling championship
Send a link to a friend
[March 21, 2009]
Ten-year-old Max Koning has
visions of being a championship wrestler, but he doesn't plan on
waiting until he grows up to accomplish this feat. With good luck, a
cool head and a winning strategy, he hopes to bring it home this
weekend when he competes at the Illinois Kids Wrestling Foundation
Intermediate State Championship in Danville.
Max is a member of the Lincoln Youth Wrestling Club, whose head
coach is Walt Landers.
Max Koning (bottom) and his practice
partner, Jarrett Poole, pause in the middle of practice to pose for
the camera. Jarrett, who did very well this year himself, but fell
just a hair short of qualifying for state, volunteered to work with
Max in getting ready for the championship.
His parents are Brian and Missy Koning, and
he has an older brother, Luke, who is also involved in the sport.
The IKWF is a statewide organization that is not affiliated with
the public schools, although the individual clubs are generally
established within a school district. The clubs are then divided
into regions and compete against each other throughout the season.
There are a few ways that a kid can qualify to go to state, among
them being to place third or better in the sectional tournament,
which is what Max has done. At sectionals he scored three wins with
only one loss and finished the competition in third place. For the
season his record is 29 wins and only seven defeats. Matt will
compete Saturday, and if he does well, will go on to compete in the
finals matches on Sunday.
Landers says that the championship rounds at state on Saturday
will begin with about 800 kids competing in various classes. Classes
are determined according to age and weight. Max's class, which is
age 8, 9 and 10 weighing 79 pounds, will be a 32-bracket competition
and can include both boys and girls.
This will be Max's second year to compete on the state level.
Landers says that last year Max did pretty well for his first time
at state, and he really thinks that he'll do even better this year.
When asked what he thinks about when he's on the mat with a
competitor, Max's two-word answer is, "the moves."
Landers explains that the short, simple answer is an accurate
one. While needed, physical strength is only a small portion of the
winning formula. As the kids compete, they don't think so much about
the competitor, but rather what the competitor is doing. To win this
weekend, Max will need to stay calm, form a strategy on how to win
and then adjust that strategy based on the moves the opponent
attempts to make.
The purpose of the competition is to score points by gaining
control over the opponent. This can be accomplished in several ways,
ranging from being able to move quickly and effectively from the
bottom position to the top, to actually pinning the opponent on the
Brian, Max's father, says that the sport is, in his opinion, one
of the safest a kid can get involved with. First, he points out that
there are rules that must be followed. When competing, the kids
can't force joints into unnatural positions. For example, trying to
bend an arm backward at the elbow is illegal and will get the
competitor a penalty. He adds that it is the only sport where there
is a minimum of one referee per two kids, and oftentimes there will
be two refs on the mat during the competition.
Missy, Max's mother, adds that the refs don't just stand around
and watch, either; they get down on the floor at the kids' level and
pay close attention to every move they make.
[to top of second column]
Scoring is done by the refs, and Brian explains that each kid
wears a colored bracelet on the ankle and wrist. The refs also wear
the same colors on their wrists. When one wrestler scores a point,
the ref will indicate this by holding up the appropriate colored
Max, a fifth-grader at Chester-East, and his brother, Luke, now
13 and in junior high, are not just interested in wrestling. Missy
says that both boys are involved with track, baseball and football
in addition to wrestling.
She adds that everything they do is contingent upon good grades.
If they fall below a certain grade level, they will have to give up
the sport. She says both boys maintain honor roll status in school.
There is a good deal of mutual respect between the coach and the
parents. Missy says that coaches Landers and Turley both volunteer
their time and talents to the children. Landers' kids are now in
college and not involved with the club, and Turley's daughter is
still too young to be involved, yet these men are taking an interest
in all the children in the club, teaching and guiding them as though
they were their own.
Landers, on the other hand, says that it is the parents who make
the kids the best they can be. The parents need to be supportive of
the kids at the competition and have to be dedicated to getting them
to the practices.
Brian and Missy say that they never miss a meet or a game for
either of the boys. Sometimes getting to practices can be a little
more difficult. With Brian working for Ameren as a lineman and Missy
working in the special education department at the high school, work
obligations can sometimes get in the way, especially for Brian, but
Missy says there is never a time that at least one of them isn't at
the practice sessions.
Any parent interested in learning more about the Illinois Kids
Wrestling Foundation can visit
http://www.ikwf.org/. On the home page is a seven-minute video
of a previous state-level competition. Missy says she would also
encourage parents and kids to attend next season's opener. It will
be at Lincoln Community High School on the first Sunday in December.
[By NILA SMITH]