Local wrestling club still going strong
BY DARRELL MOODY
Nevada Appeal Sports Writer
Go to 200 Bath St., on nearly any weekday night from November until June, and you will be greeted by kids of all shapes and sizes from 5 to 18 throwing each other around a room filled with wrestling mats and weight equipment.
Welcome to the home of the Carson Junior Bulldog Wrestling Club, a member of the Sierra Wrestling Association and USA Wrestling.
The non-profit group, which is directed by Steve Lani along with coaches Tim McCarthy and Bob McDonald, has been in existence since Cleo Pulsipher and Bing Blood rolled out some mats for what started as a recreation group back in the late 1970s.
It’s a close-knit group, and the only people who are paid are the youth officials who Carson uses whenever it hosts a tournament. Those officials do it for $30 a day and meals. The rest of any money earned throughout the year goes back into equipment and apparel for the wrestlers. If a wrestlers qualifies for a state or national event, he gets monetary help from the SWA.
“A lot of parents do stuff behind the scenes,” said McCarthy, who has been with the group for about eight years. “That’s one of the best things about the group; the camaraderie of the parents. They get a lot accomplished.”
McDonald, McCarthy said, loves the sport and it shows in the way he deals with his young wrestlers.
“He’s very passionate,” McCarthy said of McDonald. “He’s probably been with the club over 10 years. The only vacations the McDonalds take are wrestling vacation.”
The Bulldogs have been successful during the years with their fair share of tournament titles, and many of their former wrestlers have gone on to wrestle in college. Carson finished fourth in its most recent tournament, and might have finished higher with a few more wrestlers.
Certainly McCarthy and Lani would love to see more kids involved in the program than the current 45 to 50. McCarthy said recruitment is done through the mail and by word of mouth.
“Normally we put fliers out at every elementary school, ” McCarthy said. “We didn’t do that this year. It’s possibly why we are a bit down in numbers.”
Lani said the club has scholarships available if a wrestler can’t afford registration fees and equipment. He said that nobody is turned away.
McCarthy said the club also works closely with the Pop Warner program to spread the word.
Wrestling and football seem to go hand-in-hand, especially at the high school level. Football coaches like to see their players, especially linemen, wrestle; wrestling coaches love to see their kids play football. Both sports require a lot of physical and mental toughness not to mention strength and flexibility.
The club offers three disciplines of wrestling ” folkstyle, Greco-Roman and freestyle. Not every wrestler participates in each discipline, which is why the club’s numbers can fluctuate a bit.
McCarthy said some of the younger wrestlers get bored and will do another sport or sports for part of the year.
“A lot of it is attention span,” McCarthy said. “It’s a long season if you do al three. Sometimes the kids have to make a decision (between sports) or the parents have to do a lot of juggling.”
Lani said there is one club member who participates in skiing, basketball and wrestling at the same time.
“How they do it, I don’t know,” Lani said.
The Bulldogs have essentially become a farm team or feeder system if you will for the high school team, which McCarthy coaches.
“Definitely,” said McCarthy, who has two sons in the junior program. “There is also the middle school program, but that’s only about a five-week season. You are pretty quick to see club wrestlers. They are easy to identify. They are quite a bit more advanced.
“Every community in Northern Nevada has one (a club). There are 10 or so in the Reno-Sparks area alone. “If you look at the Carson team, probably 30 to 40 percent have been through the Bulldogs’ program at some point,” Lani said. “We lose some kids later in the season, but then the high school kids come over for freestyle and Greco-Roman.”
Lani said that the Carson team is comprised of about 30 percent former Bulldog wrestlers. McCarthy would love to see a higher number.
“It’s not as high a percentage as we’d like,” McCarthy said. “It’s not just at Carson, it’s everywhere. You see a kid wrestle in juniors and think about how good he’s going to be in high school, and he’s not there. Kids end up finding other things to do.
“It (wrestling) is a grind. It’s a really hard sport, and a lot of the guys look at it and say it’s not worth it.”