Signups Set For Small Fry Wrestling

WHEELING — An Ohio Valley staple will begin its 41st season in the upcoming months. The Wheeling Small Fry Wrestling League will conduct signups this Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 9, in hopes of increasing its membership.

“As far as we can see, we haven’t been able to find a league besides Mountaineer Baseball that has been running longer,” said Rick Welker, whose father, Bill, was one of the originators of the league along with the late Eric Carder. “There have been some different leagues in different sports, but they’ve fallen off after a while. Our league has lasted since 1977.”

Welker said an enormous number of kids have grown up in the league since its inception.

“There have been tens of thousands of kids come up through our league,” he said. “We’re very fortunate that it has continued to be a success.”

The idea came about in the late 1970s when Wheeling Park was forming its school and team.

“They wanted to get kids into wrestling at a younger age and it’s really exploded,” he said. “We had about 130 kids last year and we would like to get those numbers up to 150 or even 175. That would be fantastic.”

Signups will be held in the Trophy Room at Wheeling Park. For more information, go to the Wheeling Small Fry Wrestling Facebook page.

Youth from the age of 4 through fifth grade are eligible for the league, which has teams throughout the City of Wheeling and one from Union Local, which joined a season ago. There are teams at Warwood, South Wheeling, Woodsdale, Middle Creek and the Elm Grove team that practices at Wheeling Park High School.

“I think the Union Local team is incorporating some kids from Barnesville, so it’s not only a Wheeling league anymore,” he explained. “If kids from Bridgeport, Martins Ferry or any other surrounding area would like to join, we’ll find a team and make space for them.”

Practices typically start at the end of September and into early October, according to Welker.

“We will then wrestle every Sunday through November at Wheeling Jesuit University,” he said. “The first three weeks are regular matches. We try to match the kids up by age, grade and ability level. We want every kid to finish the season with a win, and know they understand the basic concepts of wrestling.

‘The last week in November is a tournament, which is typically the Sunday after Thanksgiving,” he said. “We do try and work around kid’s church schedules. If mom and dad let us know their child has church at a certain time, we will get them a match time that doesn’t conflict with that time.”

Welker said by the end of the season a wrestler will have about eight weeks of instruction and probably somewhere between 8-10 live matches.

Girls are also encouraged to participate.

“We have girls in the league and we encourage it, but we haven’t seen the number of females spike I don’t think in West Virginia just yet. I think it’s coming. We’ve had some girls that were pretty darned good, but a girls league is where I think the sport needs to go, especially when kids get in high school and the maturity level starts to make a difference.”

The cost is $45 for one member of a family, with discounts available for families with more than one participant.

“That gets them a full 8-10 week program,” Welker advised. “We work with the families because we understand the dynamics of the economy in the Ohio Valley. The bottom line is if the kid wants to wrestle, they will wrestle. We will not turn any kids away.”

The only equipment a child needs to provide is shoes.

“If they have headgear, great, but we will provide headgear and singlets,” he said. “Of course, we are fully insured.”

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