We are living in unprecedented times. While we all hunker down in our homes staving off the global pandemic that is COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, businesses across the country are shutting down while we all wait out the virus. For wrestling clubs across the country, this poses new difficult challenges. As one of those small businesses impacted by the virus, these wrestling clubs have had to come up with new ways to engage with their members that provide value to both the athlete and coach since person-to-person instruction is out of the question.
Fans in Iowa are very familiar with Young Guns, as the club has produced several starters at the University of Iowa’s lineup. The most notable of course is the Hawkeyes’ two-time NCAA champion Spencer Lee, who recently finished his junior year at Iowa by winning the Dan Hodge Trophy. The award is given to the nation’s most dominant wrestler. Lee was the third winner in Iowa program history since the award’s inception.
Instruction included by Strittmatter includes conditioning and technique sessions, book talks, and a guest speaker, which is provided on a weekly basis. There are also additional challenges suggested for the members to complete throughout the week like doing 100 pull-ups or push-ups. Strittmatter said that between his work and his brother’s Young Guns members offer as many as 10 sessions a week. Right now as many as 100 participants attend a regular Young Guns session, with attendees from 23 different states as far away as Arizona and Washington attending the virtual sessions in addition to Pennslyvania, Iowa, and Illinois where the club’s two locations are based out of.
The very first Q&A session featured the aforementioned Lee, and the club also had former Hakweye coaching legend Dan Gable. This week’s guest was former Olympian Ben Askren.
“We decided to offer free virtual online classes as an opportunity to connect with our current EIWC members and attract new members.” EIWC Director Topher Carton said, “EIWC and the local wrestling community are a pretty tight-knit family. I love that virtual sessions give the kids a chance to connect with their teammates and their coaches again. Along with that, many kids are spending a lot of time on the computer or in front of a screen completing their school work. This gives them an opportunity to get up and get their body moving in a way that is going to improve their wrestling, and our workouts are more than just a fitness class. We have come up with wrestling specific exercises and drills that our kids can do from home.”
With the opportunities offered by Eastern Iowa Wrestling Club, Gould says he also plans to supplement his Young Guns sessions by also attending Eastern Iowa online sessions.
“I am hoping to just get some different techniques and more opportunities to train throughout the quarantine. And train with my Lisbon boys that I don’t usually get to train with obviously cause I am in PA.”
One thing that may come out of this pandemic is it may have created a new source of training offered by wrestling clubs. Parents have already been asking Strittmatter if he would continue offering online instruction once life returns to “normal”.
“A lot of the parents have asked ‘When we go back to a more normal practice schedule can you keep doing this?’ It’s been a neat progression through it.”