Kids get time on the mat at wrestling camp

Published 10:17 am Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Star Photo/Bryce Phillips     Assistant Travis Pennell helps out duirng Tuesday's second annual Cyclones Wrestling Camp.

Star Photo/Bryce Phillips
Assistant Travis Pennell helps out duirng Tuesday’s second annual Cyclones Wrestling Camp.

With a shiny new wrestling mat on the floor, Elizabethton High School wrestling coach Donnie Shipley has nothing but progress on his mind.
The new mat, which is black with orange circles and a buffed and muscular cyclone in one corner, was rolled out for the first time during the second annual Cyclones Wrestling Camp — a camp that started Monday and will be entering its third day today, before wrapping up on Thursday.
Each day the camp is broken up into two sections. The first section, which runs from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., is being led by former West Virginia wrestler Reid Ratliff, while the second starts at 4:30 p.m. and ends at 7 p.m. and is conducted by West Virginia’s Bryson Begley.
Ratliff is a three-time state champion and wrestled for West Virginia in the early 1990s.
“He has coached several state medalist wrestlers in Tennessee,” Shipley said.
Begley, according to Shipley, is one of the best wrestlers to come through East Tennessee.
“He was a three-time region finalist and a three-time state qualifier,” Shipley said. “He is going to be a red-shirted sophomore this year at West Virginia.”
Even though the camp is already three days in, kids between the ages of 11 and 18 are still welcome to join, Shipley said. For one session over the two days, a kid can get in for $10. If a young wrestler wants to do both sessions for the two days, it will cost $20.
“It is just a great opportunity to give the kids some mat time, with high-level instruction,” Shipley said.
Compared to last year’s camp, this year’s has seen some growth, Shipley said. Last year, there were just six kids for the whole week. This time around, there have been roughly 20 kids a day.
“We have pretty much doubled our attendance from last year,” Shipley said.
At this point in his coaching career, Shipley’s biggest concern is growing interest in wrestling in the area. This past season, EHS hosted the Region A-AA wrestling tournament and the John Klock Classic tournament — two big events Shipley felt got the attention of other programs.
“The big thing for us is to grow our sport,” Shipley said. “With us hosting the region tournament and having the John Klock Classic here, spoke volumes to a lot of the teams in the area.”
This year’s John Klock Classic is already sizing up to be big, Shipley said.
“We have already filled up our John Klock tournament for this year,” Shipley said. “We are going to have 16 teams, including the third- and fifth-place AA finalist teams from Tennessee. So we are going to have some really quality teams come here. I believe that wrestling is really starting to grow here.”
This season at the high school level, the Cyclones will have 11 freshmen joining the squad, while losing four seniors, making the team fairly young. However, Shipley feels that since a lot of his freshmen wrestlers were apart of the middle school program, they will have enough knowledge of the sport to do well. When looking for what to expect this season, Shipley looks at Sullivan East, which had 10 freshmen last season and ended up finish third in the region and winning the conference.
“Just look at what they did,” Shipley said. “And they have the same resources we do.”
Last season, the Cyclones went 15-16 as a duel team, winning more matches in one season than the previous five season combined, Shipley said. The middle school program, which works as a feeder to the high school team, finished third in their conference. According to Shipley, the fore mentioned successes are a good driving force to bringing in more wrestlers.
“With more success comes more kids who wants to get involved,” Shipley said.
In the end, Shipley hopes to grow the wrestling program to the levels of the Cyclones football and basketball teams, he said.
“We want to build a legacy brick by brick,” Shipley said. “Our goal is to be a program that is talked about on the same level as the basketball and football programs.

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