Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Feb. 26, 2001

Young wrestlers learn new skills and discipline

By Patrice Salmon

The tables are moved into the hallway, and mats cover the cafeteria floor.

The red-faced boys are grappling, circling, and struggling against each other as their coach, Jose Luciano, gives instructions.

There are half a dozen fathers within a few feet of the young wrestlers, also giving advice.

The Lester Prairie Youth Wrestling program is a parent-run organization which has been in place for more than 20 years.

The program serves as a feeder program for high school wrestlers.

Luciano, who had wrestled in high school and while in college at Mankato State, became coach two years ago when he brought his son to join the program.

LP/HT varsity wrestling coach John Halvorson is described as the 'unspoken voice' of the program, but it's really Luciano who runs the show.

"There are a lot of parents involved in the program, I couldn't do it without the parents," said Luciano.

The wrestling program is designed so that boys of all skill and experience levels can participate.

Ranging in age from Kindergarten through 6th grade, and there's about 25 participants a year. After 6th grade, the student may wrestle at the high school level..

Kids of any ability can participate, they learn at their own speed, and size doesn't matter, explained Luciano.

There are kids who start in kindergarten, and others who don't start until fifth grade, the kids will learn, and be challenged at whatever level they're at.

"One of the goals of the program is to show kids what the sport has to offer, like conditioning, discipline, development, and it's fun," said Luciano.

Wrestlers are grouped according to grade, but weight is also taken into consideration. An effort is made to make sure the pairings are fair.

The skills acquired during the weekly practices are put to use on the weekends, when the youth can take part in tournaments.

The weekend tournaments are optional, but if a one participated in all of them, he could easily wrestle more than 20 times in a season, said Luciano.

Some of the skills gained from wrestling include: discipline, an appreciation for hard work, self-confidence, a feeling of personal self-work, and good body conditioning, explained Luciano.

Boys from Lester Prairie, Winsted, boys who are homeschooled, and boys from the surrounding areas are members of the program.

After watching a couple practices, it appears that the youngsters will come away from this program with knowledge, new skills, a few sore muscles, and a new sense of determination.

The Lester Prairie Youth Wrestling will host an NYWA District Qualifier Tournament Saturday, March 17 at the Lester Prairie High School.

Weigh-in for the all trophy event will begin at 8 a.m. for youth through fourth grade. Fifth through eighth grade weigh-in starts at 10 a.m.

Wrestlers will be placed in 4-man brackets by grade. There is an $8 entry fee per wrestler.

Concessions will be available, and admission will be charged.

For more information, contact Niki Jakobitz at (320) 395-2113.


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