Rifle wrestler has the heart of a champ, at six years old
Post Independent Intern
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
RIFLE, Colorado – Meet Andrew Leyba, a 6-year-old boy with a knack for wrestling. He stepped onto the mat a year and a half ago and hasn’t looked back since.
Though he’s taking a break now, Andrew spent May practicing many times a week for the Ironman Wrestling Folkstyle World Championships competition. He walked into the arena at University of Omaha-Nebraska and went toe to toe with five other boys in the 45-pound Tot division back in June.
After competing in the six-man, round-robin competition, Andrew, then 5, placed first and claimed top honors by pinning to the floor every opponent he faced.
Andrew’s love for wrestling is shown through his excitement about the moves. He gets excited when he “figures out what it is.” His dedicated father, Damian, helps him discover and remember moves.
Yelling for his dad to get on the mat outside his room, Andrew displayed his favorite move – the twister. Andrew wrapped his arms around Damian’s neck, twisted him to the floor and side-jumped over his father’s chest to pin him to the floor. Taking that move to a competition shows why Andrew continually takes home medals.
“I’m his coach so I get nervous,” Damian says of watching his boy wrestle, “especially when he has close matches.”
Andrew attended a Rifle High School wrestling match when he was 4 and got hooked on the one-on-one competition. Since then, he started wrestling, and wrestling well.
Instead of idolizing a WWE wrestler, Andrew has a role model who he can talk and practice with. James Conrardy from Rifle, who won a state title at the High School Wrestling Tournament in February, is who Andrew looks up to. After attending a few matches at Rifle, Andrew wanted to meet him, and finally did in January.
In May, Conrardy started practicing with Andrew twice a week until his Ironman competition. Along with about 24 medals on Andrew’s corkboard, there’s a newspaper picture of Conrardy taped to the wall. Damian laughs, saying Andrew won’t let him take it down.
One trophy Andrew earned, which is almost as tall as him, is one he won in 2008. He was given the Northwestern Colorado Wrestling League’s outstanding wrestler award.
His father is happy for the break until the fall, when the matches will pick up again. Damian takes Andrew to wrestling matches January through May to keep him involved and active. He wrestles with the Rifle pee wee wrestling program two months out of the year and then is taken by his father, who finds matches for him to wrestle in throughout Colorado.
“It’s really good father-and-son bonding time,” said Damian. “Whether he wins or loses, we try to make it fun.”
Andrew doesn’t stay off the mat. Three days after the June competition, he told his dad he was ready to start practicing again.
With about six moves under his belt, Andrew will start off next season a threat, and, with his lack of fear on the mat, only good things can be next for this 6-year-old.
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