2013-12-20 / People

Wrestling program is in building mode

Kennebunk Youth Wrestling offers children a chance to learn, and compete at own pace
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — For its second season independent of the Recreation Department, Kennebunk Youth Wrestling has opened its enrollment.

While both Middle School of the Kennebunks and Kennebunk High School have formal wrestling teams, Kennebunk Youth Wrestling caters to children who don’t yet qualify, in age or stature, for that level of competition.

Kennebunk Youth Wrestling invites children in kindergarten through sixth grade to participate.

Approximately 25 children from Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Arundel and Biddeford have signed up for the program and are members of Kennebunk Youth Wrestling. In order to join, one must pay a $45 membership fee as well as purchase a USA Wrestling membership for approximately $35.

Even though Kennebunk Youth Wrestling has been operating for five years, many people still don’t know it exists.

“There’s this whole sports entity out there that I didn’t know anything about,” said Kennebunk resident Bob Madore. “I have four kids and do Parks and Recreation and a lot of activities and this was right off the radar,” Madore said of the youth wrestling league, still in its nascent stages.

Madore’s 8-year-old son, Max, began participating last year.

“It was a bit of trial and error,” Madore said.

The youth wrestling group holds practices twice a week; however, those who practice are not required to compete.

“Competitions are if you want to do them, but it isn’t a necessity as a group,” Madore said.

“Bit by bit we’re figuring things out, said Tami York, secretary for the newly formed Kennebunk Youth Wrestling Board of Directors and mother of two young wrestlers, ages 13 and 9.

“It seems to work much better because we can kind of control our own destiny. Last year was our toe in the water. This year things have definitely gotten more involved; we’re like a real group,” York said. “He wanted to make it more than it ever could have been under the umbrella of parks and recreation,” York said of head coach Steve Young.

“One of the reasons we took it from out of parks and rec was because we got a lot of support from parents who wanted to be doing more than they could do through parks and rec,” said Young. “We decided to push things forward as far as what parents could do for fundraising. We have such good support from them,” Young said.

Young, 30, and assistant coach, Mike Dumas, 28, wrestled in college together at the University of Southern Maine.

This is Young’s first year as head coach for Kennebunk High School. Dumas and Young also coach wrestling at Middle School of the Kennebunks.

Young, who has been wrestling since the eighth grade, said he and Dumas understand the importance of having a pee-wee wrestling program in addition to the school wrestling teams.

“I come from a pretty good (youth wrestling) program in upstate New York; I know the importance of having a youth program,” Young said.

Young said he and Dumas wanted to help the pee-wee program grow, and took the opportunity to coach together as soon as the opportunity became available.

One of the philosophies they share, as coaches, Young said, is to keep the stress level low, to prevent participants from becoming burned out.

“We’ve seen a lot of people burn out because it is such a tough sport,” Young said. “One thing we try to do is make it fun for the kids so they want to come and be a part of it. We don’t want to lose them because they get scared at a competition. We try to keep it as stress-free and easy for them so they’ll stay involved,” Young said.

Kids who become comfortable with wrestling when they’re young, said Young, learn a lot more than what’s taught on the mat.

“There’s a responsibility that comes with it. It helps them build stronger confidence in themselves and it just makes daily things that they face seem easier,” Young said. “I just think it’s a great thing to be a part of.”

York echoed the sentiment: “Kids in all sports benefit from wrestling. The kids are so incredibly in shape. Even for those kids who never want to wrestle in a tournament, practice is great for just a workout and toning body control. I can only say that wrestling has done nothing but be of benefit to my boys in terms of crossing into other sports.”

“Wrestling is a weird sport, I’ll be the first one to admit it,” York said. “To an outsider, wrestling can seem incredibly brutal, almost barbaric. That’s what people might see with an uneducated eye,” York said. ”These little kids work so incredibly hard. There are so many rules and regulations that go into every match. These little boys have to be mindful of the time, have to listen to their coaches, have to be aware of their coaches, they have to figure out how they can score a point in tense situation they’re in, and all of this happens within seconds of each other.”

“Steve and Mike know these kids and have a real investment in them,” York said. “My youngest started in kindergarten, and my oldest started in third grade. When they start they’re rolling around on the mat, giggling. By the time they are in high school they know what they’re doing,” York said. “It benefits them in the long run because they will have a core group of kids who know what they’re doing.”

Practices are Tuesday and Thursday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in gym C at Kennebunk High School.

For more information about Kennebunk Youth Wrestling visit www.kennebunkyouthwrestling.com or visit the Kennebunk Youth Wrestling Facebook page.

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