Local grapplers tutored by gold medalist
Kevin Jackson believes the popularity of amateur wrestling can be boosted by taking a page out of the orchestrated version of professional wrestling’s handbook.
He said that promotion of the sport will lead to greater exposure, and more exposure will increase participation.
Jackson is the current United States Men’s freestyle national team coach and a former Olympic gold medalist.
And the word Jackson has been getting to the kids at the Rhino Wrestling Camp is that wrestling is fun.
Helping Jackson with that philosophy has been the camp’s other instructors – Brett Hatten, the director/head coach of the Rhino Wrestling Club, and his daughter, Heather, the head women’s coach at Adams State College in Alamosa.
Getting the kids involved in the sport helps, Jackson said. But that’s only the start.
He said that wrestling will grow if they can receive additional live television exposure.
“The sport has gotten a boost by television,” he said. He pointed out there was more attraction to wrestling after Rulon Gardner won his gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Summer Games.
Wrestling, Jackson added, could be aided if Kurt Angle, a current World Wrestling Entertainment performer, goes through with his plans to return to amateur wrestling for the 2004 Games.
And if Angle makes the decision to return to amateur wrestling – and makes the Olympic squad, Jackson, slated to head up the 2004 team in Athens, Greece, will be his coach.
But, his main concern this week has been on the kids at the Rhino Camp. The three-day camp held at the Brettleburg Condominiums on Sunlight Mountain ended Saturday, but Jackson and his coaches hope the lessons learned at the camp last much longer.
“The thing we have been telling the kids this week is just to be the best in everything you can do and you will be fine,” said Jackson.
Jackson said it was the people in the sport that sparked his desire to wrestle. “I played all the other sports when I was younger,” he explained. “I had a coach in seventh grade that really got me interested in wrestling, and fell in love with the sport.”
As a teacher and coach, Jackson has been able to pass on his passion of wrestling to a new generation of athletes.
“Kids are not like when I was younger because they have things like video games,” he said. “But, kids are going to be kids. And most kids like to be told what to do as long as you show them.”
More importantly, Jackson uses wrestling as life skill.
“Sports is sports and you can only be in it for so long,” he said. “I tell the kids that wrestling is a lot like life. It’s you versus the world and if you work hard to be the best – you will be a champion.”
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