Encouraging youth to take up wrestling

Published 12:50 pm Tuesday, December 24, 2019

I am so glad to hear about the resurgence of wrestling in our area. It used to be one of the better programs in the east and the most successful program at East Carolina. East Carolina was known for its strong wrestling program, and is the reason why University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University started granting scholarships for good wrestlers to attend. John Welborn was the coach at ECU, and he did so much with so little, yet his teams won consistently. When ECU dropped wrestling, there was not much interest in wrestling in our area.

Having coached wrestling for five years, I can tell you that it is the longest six minutes in athletics! At that time, there were only 13 weight classes, and it was demanding on wrestlers to keep their weight, because they had to weigh in at every match. It is a demanding sport both mentally and physically. Running every day and practicing techniques is a must. For a wrestler to last six minutes, he has to be in excellent shape and know all the right techniques for a take down or pinning combinations.

What I liked about the sport the most was that you could not blame anyone but yourself if you lost. It was just you and your opponent! Wrestling is not like any other sport, and it certainly builds character in so many ways. It is an individual sport, but can be considered a team sport when points are added up at the end of a match. It is not a sport for the young person that is not willing to sacrifice for himself and his team. Losing weight and running every day is common among wrestlers and making weight each match is important.

Please do not think that professional wrestling is anything like high school wrestling. High school wrestling is real. I asked my football players in the offseason to wrestle if they were not going to play basketball. If they got thrown around, then maybe the less aggressive kids would become more aggressive, and it proved me right.

Wrestling had many good coaches in our area. Milt Sherman at Conley, Joe Tkach at Washington and W.D. Davenport at Plymouth, come to my mind. Joe and Milt wrestled at ECU for Coach Welborn and were far ahead of others in our area. They helped teach me so much about the sport, because I had never wrestled, and Washington did not have the sport when I was a student. The three men took it to another level for high schools at that time.

I was reading in the WDN about P.S. Jones junior high and their success, as well as Southside High School starting a program that will only help their overall athletic program. Washington, for years, has had a very successful program. You have to start early to become a good wrestler and not get discouraged if the first year you have more losses than wins. Like any other sport, it takes time to learn the techniques in wrestling. Please stay with it because, young wrestlers, you are experiencing one of the most demanding sports you will ever attempt. Thanks for participating and thanks for helping bring back a sport that we need for our youth of today — the toughest six minutes in athletics!

I have learned many lessons about life between two white lines, and I thank every coach for sharing these lessons with me! Thank you, coaches!

— Harold Robinson Jr. is a former coach at Williamston High School for 31 years and a member of the East Carolina coaching staff for 12 years.