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Young wrestlers learn lessons on mat

June 28, 2001|By TIM YANNI, Sports Writer

With no middle-school level wrestling programs in the Imperial Valley, it can be difficult to find quality wrestlers coming into local high schools.

Southwest High School and its wrestling head coach, David Weldon, decided they would improve the quality of freshman wrestlers by staging a camp for El Centro's newly graduated eighth-graders.

"In the Valley we don't have organized junior high wrestling like we should," Weldon said.

He added of the 18 wrestlers who showed up, a good 75 percent had no wrestling experience

"A lot of these kids are beginning to understand what wrestling is about. There are some people that come in knowing absolutely nothing and they're getting at least three good takedowns," he said, calling that a "major accomplishment."

Shawn Sellers, a 15-year-old El Centro resident and incoming Southwest freshman, said he has come a long way thanks to Weldon and the camp.


"I think it helps a lot of people and it gives them something to do," Sellers said.

Sellers, who wrestled freestyle when he was 8 years old, said his brother Troy got him interested in the sport.

"He's pretty good and he influenced me to wrestle," Sellers said of his brother, who played football and wrestled for the Eagles and graduated with the class of 2001.

"(Weldon) taught me different moves that I didn't know," Sellers said. "He taught me how to work as a team."

Sellers said an advantage of going to the three-day camp is he is aware of what to expect in the wrestling season.

"We know what it's going to be like," Sellers said. "They're already teaching us the moves."

Sellers said he wants to play football and wrestle at Southwest and hopes to one day have his name grace the Eagle Wrestling Wall of Champions.

Weldon said the camp was conducted to improve the quality of Southwest wrestling and to develop a quality program consisting of strong frosh, junior varsity and varsity level wrestlers.

"Hopefully we'll be able to give Brawley some competition," Weldon said.

Overall, Weldon said he is pleased with the freshmen who attended the camp.

"If these guys hang, we will be champions," Weldon said. "We'll take the wins and we'll take the losses, but we want to do quality things."

Weldon said those who attended the camp have much better wrestling backgrounds than they would otherwise.

"We would expect that these guys win their freshman positions," Weldon said.

He added he would like to see the wrestlers involved in the camp win 75 percent of their matches in the first half of the season.

Weldon said he encourages his wrestlers to compete in other team sports such as football and cross country to keep them in shape for the wrestling season.

Weldon, an assistant freshman football coach since the school opened, said he would like to see many of those in the camp come out for freshman football.

He said he expects his wrestlers to stay active and lift weights during the off-season.

Thirty freshmen were expected to attend the camp which ended Wednesday, said Weldon, but 18 showed up.

"But the 18 that are here are quality people," Weldon said.

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