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EDWARDSVILLE – Like many other sports, wrestling requires a lot of time, effort and sacrifice to be able to perform at peak efficiency.

But the effort and training to reach the top of the sport – certainly one of the oldest and most basic sports around – begins at a young age.

For Edwardsville High School's successful program, the training begins at the grass roots, and that's why the Edwardsville Wrestling Club exists – to teach the basics of wrestling to youngsters.

“I started (wrestling) when I was really young,” said EWC head coach Pat McNamara. “My dad was a wrestling coach (in the Minneapolis-St. Paul suburb of Jordan, Minn.); he started me wrestling when I was five and it just took off. I kept doing it, kept wrestling.

“What we're trying to do here is make Edwardsville a wrestling-predominate town and the kids like wrestling. We've got a lot of kids interested in our town; our club serves the Edwardsville community and that's who we focus on. We have a really good number of kids (some 180 registered participants in the club from ages 6-7, 8-9, 10-12 and all the way to middle-school level) involved in our program and it's going really well.”

Being involved in wrestling can teach valuable lessons that can help participants all throughout their lives, McNamara believes. “It teaches a lot of discipline and just hard work, not being afraid to put it all on the line,” McNamara said. “It's a great sport.”

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At this level, wrestling has elements of both an individual sport and a team sport, much like baseball in some ways. “It's a very good sport because you have both aspects (of team and individual sports),” McNamara said. “There's a team aspect and an individual aspect; kids go out there all by themselves. They've got to compete and rely just on themselves, which is a good thing.”

While amateur wrestling gets some exposure during the Olympics every four years and during events such as the NCAA Wrestling Championship (which is televised on ESPN and was a staple of the classic ABC anthology series Wide World of Sports), mention wrestling to the average person and the first thing he or she may think of is either the professional “sports-entertainment” organization World Wrestling Entertainment or (in some cases) the classic St. Louis-area television staple Wrestling at the Chase.

“It's definitely different,” McNamara said of the differences between the professional and amateur versions of wrestling. “You think of some people who aren't familiar with the sport who think of wrestling as the professional wrestling they do on TV, and this is a lot safer, a lot better sport overall in teaching kids the right things and the right way to act.

“There's a lot of good discipline, things they can learn about sportsmanship. There's a lot of good qualities about wrestling.”

It also allows participants to aim high; a future state, national or even Olympic champion could get their start in an organization like the Edwardsville Wrestling Club.”

“We want our kids to shoot high in their goals and work hard,” McNamara said, “and hopefully we can help them achieve those goals.”

More information on the club and upcoming Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation tournaments the club will be taking part in can be found at the club's web site, www.edwardsvillewrestling.com

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