Lincoln Youth Wrestling, initiated during the 2002-2003 school year,
gives youngsters a way to learn about "moves" and direct their
skills into a positive activity. Beginners, the youngest group, are
5 to 7 years old. Advanced wrestlers can include experienced
7-year-olds if they have completed a few seasons on the mats, but
usually the group includes from 8 years old up to 14.
Not all the wrestlers are boys. Chelsey Werth, 13, is in her
first year with Lincoln Youth Wrestling. She is in eighth grade at
Lincoln Junior High. She decided to join the LYW team even though
the junior high has a wrestling program.
"I decided to join the youth wrestling group because I thought
I'd get more wrestling time," Chelsey said, "and most of these guys
have been wrestling for a long time. I'm learning a lot because they
have more experience."
Is she treated like one of the guys?
"No, not really," Chelsey admitted sheepishly. "After one
practice a parent came up and asked me if their son had hurt me. He
hadn't -- we had a good round -- but they were concerned about me. I
"At a meet a few weeks ago, one guy forfeited the match because
he didn't want to wrestle me. That is going to happen, but I'm going
to be ready to wrestle when I am out there," she explained.
Several participants do have several years of experience,
according to coach Walt Landers.
"We have several boys who started when they were pretty young,"
Landers commented. "Trevor Bree, 10, has been wrestling for five
years; Tyler Worth is also 10, and he's been wrestling for four
years; Austin O'Donoghue is 8 and has been wrestling for three
"There are more that started when they were pretty young and have
continued with the program to become good wrestlers," Landers said.
Walt Landers has coached football and wrestling. In total he has
been a coach for 25 years. Brian Turley is his assistant coach for
the youth wrestlers. But Landers also gives credit to several other
men who work alongside them.
"We have about 20 coaches listed for our group (Lincoln Youth
Wrestling)," Landers said. "There are dads who attend
practices and wrestling meets to help with the kids.
"Some of them are here tonight," he continued. "They give
their time to make sure the kids have plenty of assistance when
Dads and moms are present at practices and meets. Dads get out on
the mats to instruct and coach. It gives wrestlers more individual
attention and helps to keep order if a few male voices are giving
instruction and making conversation with the kids.
[to top of second column]
Experienced moms give sideline direction, offering an observer's
point of view. They volunteer when the team hosts tournaments and
home meets. And they, well, they're moms. With almost 30 youngsters
on the team, ages 5 through 13, there is sometimes a need for a word
of encouragement or a nudge in the right direction when a wrestler
goes astray. It makes for a close-knit group when parents and kids
see each other on a regular basis and have the sport in common.
Officially, Lincoln Youth Wrestling has three levels -- 6 years
and under, bantam and intermediate (9- and 10-year-olds). The team
is basically kindergarten through fifth grade. Upper levels are
senior-novice divisions, at the junior high. But Lincoln Youth
Wrestling has older youth who prefer to belong to the group. Only
upper divisions from the junior high are eligible to advance to
state tournaments, not those from a youth wrestling team.
Lincoln Youth Wrestling is sanctioned at the state level by the
Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation. Older divisions are sanctioned
by USA Wrestling, which governs age levels and skill divisions up to
and including the Olympics.
Lincoln Youth Wrestling begins practice the first week of
November, and registration is completed the week before. The team
wrestles at regular meets and participates in tournaments, including
one it hosts -- Railer Rumble, during the first weekend of December.
In 2011 the tournament attracted 400 wrestlers, ages 5 through 14.
There are two practices each week, and there are meets both in
and out of town. The season will wind down in a couple of months,
ending the last week of February or first week of March, depending
on tournament dates. Notices and information will be distributed to
students in the area when registration for a new season is under
[By MARLA BLAIR]