I was at a practice recently with my son and had a parent come up to my wife and me.

She asked us if we knew what we were getting into ….

She started going on about all of the travel, all of the time, and all of the costs involved with competing in this sport.

My wife and I asked who her child was – and she pointed up to 2 National Championship banners hanging from the ceiling.

Her daughter had won the national championships for her age division … twice.

I’m guessing she was 12.

While it seemed like her daughter enjoyed what she did, I’m guessing this won’t be the path for my son.

I wanted to tell her – This is only part of his journey … not the destination.

It got me thinking, what other sports could round out a wrestler. Better yet, what could make them a hybrid athlete – dangerous on multiple levels?

Here are my thoughts:

Rock Climbing – My good friend Dr. Anton Dietzen (www.trainingforwrestling.com) was an avid rock climber before coming to University of Illinois. It was rumored that he had never really lifted up a weight before college … but his strength was superhuman. I remember seeing him do sets of 10 pull-ups with 100lbs hanging from his waist. He eventually translated this into a mean front headlock series.  His poor opponents had no chance of getting their heads out from under his massive arms and lats. Rock climbers generally have grip strength that is superhuman. These guys can hang for minutes from 2-3 finger tips. I plan to get my son involved with climbing, even if it’s just a fingerboard trainer (here) in the garage.

Olympic lifting – Obvious right? But isn’t it dangerous? The answer to that question is no … with proper supervision. There are still a lot of people who believe that weight training will stunt a child’s grown … but this has no evidence. My goals with lifting are not to get my wrestler strong as much as get him used to using proper technique. Young children do not have the hormones (testosterone mostly) to really build muscle. That being said, there are changes that happen to the nervous system that are worthwhile. It’s almost like the nervous system gets more familiar with the muscles they are activating – which will help in any sport … not just wrestling. I like Olympic lifting because of the power they learn to develop. Which wrestler can’t use more power?

Gymnastics – If you were wondering which sport I was talking about in my intro, this was it. We were in a gymnastics gym. I’ve heard gymnastics be referred to as the “apex of athleticism” by George St. Pierre in his book The Way of The Fight (link). I agree 100%. Gymnastics teaches balance, core strength, air sense, full body coordination, strength, upper and lower body explosiveness, and flexibility … just to name a few. It’s my belief that gymnasts who transition to wrestling have an unfair advantage – almost like cheating. What is even better is that my son absolutely loves practice – which is 2.5-3 hours per day for 2 days out of the week. I don’t think he would be having as much fun (or working as hard) in any other sport at this age.

And don’t think that I don’t want my son to try other sports.

He’s already done soccer, basketball, swimming, and t-ball … and he will continue.

He has even golfed with the neighbors.

I think our role as fathers is to expose our sons to a variety of other sports.

I just plan on spending a bit more time in rock climbing, Olympic lifting, and gymnastics.

I can’t say I’m ready to drive across the country for my 5 year old to compete in a trampoline contest … he’s already a national champion in my eyes.

I’ll hang the banners in his room.

-Joe

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