Youth wrestling may only be seen as an extracurricular activity to some, but the coaches at the South Windsor Youth Wrestling Program view the sport as a way to not only gain physical strength, but also teach life lessons.
"Wrestling develops great adults," said assistant coach Jon Dixon.
The program is open to boys and girls ages six through 13, many of whom are siblings, Dixon said.
The SW Youth Wrestling Program was created in 1994, but has gone through changes over the last several years. A resurgence occurred when new head coach Mike Cunningham joined.
Dixon said he hopes the program's success continues and that a legacy is created that will one day have former students bringing their children to join.
Wrestling is also a good way to keep football players conditioned during their offseason, Dixon said.
"You'll hear a lot of NFL players say the only reason they made it in was because they wrestled. It's the functionality of the core strength, hip flexor strength," Dixon said.
The number of girls in the program increases each year. His daughter Brooke, 5, insisted that she begin wrestling after seeing her older brother, Zack, at practice.
Brooke used to complain about being sore early on and not wanting to attend practice, but she stuck with the program. She placed first in at the CT Girls State Championships and won first in competitions in Bristol, Berlin, Simsbury, and South Windsor for her weight class.
Four year participant Michael "Mikey" Killoy, 11, also tapped into his determination to have a successful season. When he first started wrestling, he mostly won bronze and worked his way up to silver. His skills started to get better, he disloacted his shoulder during a match.
After completing physical therapy and taking his coaches' advice to increase core strength, Killoy came back stronger than ever. He won four gold medals and advanced to the New England Regional Tournament, where he won two matches. He also received recognition as Most Valuable Wrestler.
"He came back stronger, was leaned out, better focused," Dixon said.
It was also a successful year for Sean Dittmar, 8, who won four gold medals and Sophia Gordon, 9, who took second place at the state championships.
Dixon said the program has a family atmosphere and that the kids become close. There is even a sense of camaraderie with the opponents. Every match, they make sure to shake hands with the opposing team's members and coaches.