WHEELING - Tomorrow's wrestlers certainly have fared well for themselves today.
The Wheeling Wrestling Club is not new, but the group has undergone a rebirth of sorts, born out of the fact that wrestling, in the Wheeling area, is growing again.
The success of the group shows it.
The Wheeling Wrestling Club, pictured front row, from left: Isaac Sands, Jerome Maynard, Brock Humphrey, Mason Charlton, Landon Cottrill, Cameron Banks, Carter Lucas and Kason Angel. Second row, from left: Cody Taggert, Jameson Maynard, Brody Cottrill, Zac Lydick, Bradyn Lucas, Austin Musilli, Wyatt Brady, Josh Weigand, Landon Murray and Quinton Velas. Third row, from left: Alex Taylor, Steven Mitchell, Erick Brothers, Andrew Shelek, Hunter Nixon, Charlie Tamburin, Nathan Shelek, Caden Stout, Adam Angel and Jason Ross. Back row, from left: Coach Angel, Coach Taggert, Coach Shelek, Coach Brothers, Coach Nash, John Nash III, Coach Weigand, Coach Hickman, Coach Sands and Coach Velas. Not pictured are Huter Oliver and Coach Humphrey.
At the state tournament last month, the Wheeling club took 30 wrestlers (ages 6-14) and 18 placed in the top six. More impressively, 10 made the finals and six won state championships.
The growth is evident.
"When I first got involved five years ago, we took 11 kids down state and we had seven place," said Erick Brothers, the president and assistant coach of the club.
"Here we are, five years later, and we are taking 30 kids downstate. That we placed 18 in the top six, had 10 in the finals and won six state championships, those numbers are extraordinary."
The future is definitely bright for area wrestling.
Coach Todd Shelek and Brothers are making sure of that.
With an eye toward the future, the club has matches at Wheeling Park and when the Park wrestlers are on the home mats, the members of the club are normally there.
"It is tremendous," said Brothers, who wrestled for a team that was based on Wheeling Island, the Eagles, when he was coming up.
"They go up to the Park matches, and they high-five the high school guys, they know the guys on the team. Every kid who is in the club aspires to be at that level in the future, and it's great for them to see it up close, feel like they are involved. I know that (Park coach) Jack Doyle, (and assistant coaches) Clay Tucker and Justin Gunnoe are active in what we are doing. So is Sean Doyle at (Wheeling) Jesuit. It's big to have those guys involved in what we are doing."
Pretty soon the young wrestlers will be involved at that level.
As for now, they are doing nicely on the way up.
Among the six state champions this season are Brock Humphrey, Quinton Velas, Erick Brothers, Nathan Shelek (a two-time champion), Adam Angel and John Nash III (a three-time state champion).
Placing second were Landon Cottrill, Cody Taggert, Adam Shelek and Hunter Nixon.
"This group of kids is going to be special when they get to (the prep level)," Brothers said. "Wrestling in this area is really starting to grow. We have five teams in our small-fry club. When my son started at 4 years old five years ago, we had 70 kids. Now there are 130 with teams in Woodsdale, Elm Grove, Middle Creek, South Wheeling and Warwood."
The small fry group stresses basics.
They start in October and wrestle in matches in the local area.
By the time they move up with the older kids, they have the basics down, and that's when the travel - from December through the state tournament in March - starts and technique is taught.
By the numbers alone, it is working.
"These kids are all brothers," Brothers said. "It's not a team sport per se but these kids are a team. It is awesome to be a part of this. Wrestling is a tough sport but I think it teaches a lot of life lessons. Where else in sports can it come down to you against someone else and you get to battle it out. We tell our kids to win like champions, and lose like champions. To us, they are all champions in our eyes."
Other place finishers at the state tournmant incude Cameron Banks (third), Brody Cottrill (third), Alex Taylor (fourth), Carter Lucas (sixth), and Jason Ross (sixth). Caden Stout was seventh in Ohio.
The Wheeling Wrestling Club started in the mid-70s by a group of men that included local wrestling legend Bill Welker.
"This group has a little bit of history to it, we just want to keep it going," Brothers said. "It's been a great organization and we want to keep it that way."
They are well on their way to doing that.