Wrestling camp teaches character
For a total of four days, area wrestlers learn about their sport from some talented and experienced grapplers from Kansas. But the focus isn't only on wrestling at this camp.
The Team Champions Wrestling Camp once again returned to Baldwin City, and once again it tried to teach wrestlers that there is more to life than their sport.
"We always try to throw a lot of things in that are more than wrestling," Baldwin High School coach Kit Harris said. "That is kind of our camp focus. We have other things we are focusing on. My dad does a Champions of Character presentation about sportsmanship and leadership. We also teach the value of academics, along with weight training and nutrition sessions."
Gonz Medina, co-creator of the camp with Harris, said the wrestling technique information is important, but the other information helps make a better person.
"We like to change it up a little each year," Medina said. "We always work on the mat and we always work on our feet. But we also have a session where we teach them about building good character and being a good person. It's more than wrestling, because we teach about life lessons."
The aspects of the camp that don't revolve around wresting include nutrition, academic and character talks from the clinicians and Baker University Athletic Director Dan Harris, who is K. Harris' father.
Those informational talks are one reason four-time NCAA All-American and Kansas native Eric Akin returned to the camp this year.
"I like doing camps in Kansas and it's close to home," Akin said. "I like working with the Kansas kids. Kit and Gonz are great to work with. It's a pretty little town and a fun little drive over. This is a good camp with good kids. We want to do what we can to shape their minds and their bodies."
Akin is one of many talented clinicians that helped at the camp this year. They are part of what makes the camp special, according to the wrestlers who attend the camp.
"You hear about him a lot," Harris said of Akin. "You get to learn from him, then have him look you straight in the eye and tell you what to do. It's really fun."
Akin said the counselors at the camp are very versatile in their wrestling experience.
"We have everything pretty much covered," Akin said. "Gonz, Kit and I have experience on the high school, college and national levels. We have a good little mix. Everybody is kind of different, but yet versatile in wrestling."
However, Akin is only one of the many clinicians that help the wrestlers during the four-day camp.
"It's pretty sweet and lots of fun," said BHS freshman Josh Hanson said. "It's cool having the great people come in and teach us sweet moves."
BHS senior Brian Harris said he really enjoyed the time with the talented wrestlers and what they taught him.
"The technique sessions are great," B. Harris said. "They show it with good form, then they give us a while to work on it until we get it right. Then we can ask questions."
Akin said teaching the campers new moves is fun.
"We were working a few pin holds and escapes today," Akin said. "Yesterday we worked on takedowns. Today I showed them some fun trick moves."
When the wrestlers aren't being instructed, they try to have fun with the clinicians.
"You always want to make a summer camp fun," Medina said. "You learn more when you are having fun with it, than when you're not having fun."
Besides wrestling, the campers also take time to work out in the weight room. They are instructed in how to improve their weight-training program.
"The weight training was fun and important," B. Harris said. "It showed the newcomers the dedication that they are going to have to give if they want to stick with it."
The campers weren't the only ones enjoying themselves this week. The clinicians also had a fun time getting to know the wrestlers.
"It's great and the kids are great," Medina said. "They learn a lot when they are here and they pay attention. It's a good camp."
Akin has also enjoyed getting to know many of the campers, because they treat him special.
"There are a lot of good kids here," Akin said. "A lot of them have either heard about me or know who I am, so it makes it like a homecoming every time you do something for them."
The camp has been a success again, according to K. Harris.
"It's a really great camp and we have really good numbers," Harris said. "We've had a lot of clinicians excited to come and work the camp. It's turning out to be another successful year."
Harris hopes all of the campers enjoyed their time and learned how to become good people and wrestlers.
"We want them to learn wrestling, but also other things that are going to help make them successful in the rest of their lives," Harris said. "We want the kids to have a positive and enjoyable experience. That is really important to us."