Four years strong and growing.
The Newton-Conover wrestling club celebrated its fourth season this week with a special presentation honoring those who participated in the club.
N-C wrestling coach Eddy Clark, who organizes the youth club, came up with the idea from a meeting with a college coach.
"We met with Kevin Dresser, the head coach at Virginia Tech," Clark said. "He had been a real successful high school coach. He gave us ideas, and we got great coaches in place. This is what we came up with."
Volunteer head coaches manage six youth teams. About 100-150 kids participated in the club in each of its four years in existence.
This season, the teams include the Cyclones, Mustangs, Cowboys, Lions, Bulldogs and Hawkeyes. Each team has about 20 wrestlers, from kindergarten through sixth grade.
"We felt like we needed a good place for our youth to compete, have a good time and learn some life lessons," Clark said. "We brainstormed, got it to together and this is the finished product."
Not only has the club been a hit, but the results have translated on to the middle school and high school programs.
"The ninth graders on my high school team this year were the first group wrestling in this youth program," Clark said. "So we are helping the community and the youth, but we are hoping it will pay off one of these days at the middle school and high school levels."
Newton-Conover wrestlers participate in the program as coaches. Clark thinks this has helped them develop techniques on the mat.
"I think to really understand something, you have to teach it," Clark said. "You don't know how well you know it until you try to teach it to someone else. I think it is great for these guys to get out here, teach, know what its like to be in front of a group and try to get them to wrestle. It is great for them in a whole lot of different ways.”
Former Red Devil wrestler Andrew Tremain, who has been coaching in the youth program since its inception, said the program helped him fine-tune his mat skills and win a state title at Newton-Conover.
"You learn to be a smarter wrestler when you are teaching them," Tremain said. "You realize that maybe you should try that or make those types of moves. When you have a list of things to teach and show the kids, it clicks in your head."
Proceeds from the club help pay for wrestling camps and national tournaments for the Newton-Conover High School wrestlers.
With the success of the Newton-Conover youth program, Clark said the idea of youth clubs are spreading to other teams in Catawba County.
"I've shared my ideas with Maiden," Clark said. "St. Stephens started its program this year. Foard started its two years ago. A lot of their coaches are good buddies of mine, so we share ideas. They are doing a good job, and they have good programs. We want wrestling to be big in the area."