Learning the basics of wrestling and of life

Glen Edwards Panthers on the prowl
By: Kurt Voigt News Messenger Sports Correspondent
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The wrestling program and Glen Edwards Middle School has made a lot of progress thanks to devoted athletes and a dedicated coach. Panthers’ head wrestling coach Kirby Desha speaks with passion about his sport. Now in his fourth year at Glen Edwards, Desha has been around wrestling since high school. His wealth of knowledge helps him when instructing his newest athletes. “Most kids only know wrestling from the fake stuff they see on WWE and the like,” said Desha. “It really is the ultimate ‘fair’ sport, since it’s just one kid versus another, same weight, ‘mano y mano,’ if you know what I mean.” He said the growth of mixed martial arts has increased the interest in wrestling. Kirby enjoys introducing the sport and inspires young athletes to take it up. At the middle school level they learn the basics and get a feel for competition. To help the newcomers some coaches allow flexibility in the weight classifications to ensure a better match. This usually happens in preseason and exhibition tournaments. There are no tryouts or cuts and there is a weight class for everyone. Everybody can compete and that makes the sport unique. Wrestling is based on weight, not height, skill or speed. It’s one wrestler against another. “Kids are not limited by height or size, because you wrestle based on weight class so everybody gets a fair chance,” said Desha. “It is based on the individual; whether you’re tall or short (it) doesn’t matter and it doesn’t necessarily mean you have an advantage.” Glen Edwards has 27 boys and one girl on the team to fill 21 weight classes. Some wrestle in the same weight class. Wrestlers are weighed before each match to ensure there is no weight advantage. In practice, Desha demonstrates different moves and then pairs his students to work on the proper techniques. He watches carefully and reinforces his teaching with demonstrations. Desha said other coaches are also helpful during tournaments. Desha and Twelve Bridges Middle School coach Blaine Eslinger sometimes combine practices and work together, especially if Glen Edwards’ facilities are not available. The two schools provide a great feeder program for Lincoln High School. In high school the wrestlers are taught more sophisticated techniques. It’s also at the prep level that the rules become stricter as to weight and diet. “Wrestling can teach lessons that the kids can carry with them for a lifetime: patience, self-confidence, discipline and sacrifice,” said Desha. “They will gain valuable insight into their own strength of character.” Sabrina Desha is the only girl on the team and loves the competition and thrill of the matches. She is doing well and is excited about the Panthers’ team. “I like the way your blood is pumping and your heart is racing during a match, whether you win or lose; you tried your hardest and you competed,” said Sabrina Desha. “I like the conditioning of the sport, getting in shape, because you can tell when your opponent is out of shape; they’re out of breath. “I like learning new moves and different strategies for wrestling,” she added. Glen Edwards 68, Olympus 21 Panthers’ varsity winners Enrique Sandoval (66 pounds), Javier Sandoval (83), Caleb Hunt (100), Anthony Rocha (103), Austin Swett (108), Kyle Smolich (116), Daniel White (122), Jaden Martinez (128), Jeffery Jones (142), Ikaika Loque (185), Colton Fraga (205), Thomas Fast (235) Panthers’ JV winners Sabrina Desha (89), Steven Reece (95), Gianni Greco (135), Caleb Kettlehut (135), Kenny Lucas (153)