Our Experience at Ken Chertow’s Wrestling Camp

Friday, August 12th, 2011 by Tony Reid

If you have read my blogs in the past, you know I frequently talk about my son, Tyson and his start in the great sport of wrestling. I believe, and I have been told by many athletes better than myself that wrestling is the best sport for a young boy to get involved in. After being there for his first season I was a believer. After attending his first wrestling camp I am convinced.

He (and when I say he I mean we, considering he’s six) attended Ken Chertow’s Wrestling Camp in State College, PA on July 23 through the 26th. The camp was one of the more impressive things I have seen recently. The entire staff is top of the line. Ken himself is a former Olympian, an accomplished competitor, coach and personality in the sport. His coaching of all levels of kids from elementary school through college and beyond is outstanding. His enthusiasm and knowledge is second to none. His staff is equally impressive, comprised of of countless former Olympians, National Champions, All Americans, State Champions and other high level wrestlers. The camp we attended featured a guy you may have heard of…Rulon Gardner. The facility was nice, too. We were taking up the vast majority of the Ramada Inn during our time there. There was a nice display of many of Ken’s awards, medals, etc. including the torch he carried during the Olympic ceremony. One of the hotel rooms was used as a store where you could purchase instructionals, gear, etc.

The attendees were, you guessed it, top of the line. When I say top of the line, I mean wrestling machines. Some of the higher level kids were there for weeks at a time and it shows. This group is called the Gold Medal group and for good reason, as they will most likely be standing on many platforms and podiums accepting medals over the course of their careers.My little guy was the youngest in attendance at six years old with only one season of wrestling under his belt. He didn’t lose a match all season but after all, this wasn’t Altoona. There were kids there that wrestle year round and had traveled halfway across the country to attend this camp.

The first day was a glimpse into what the rest of the week was going to hold. Just like he did during the season, he relied on his natural athletic ability which worked in some cases but not in others now. He got a great lesson in technique from the coaches and from the kids he was wrestling. Sometimes he took the lessons well and other times…not so much. On day two in one session he got taken down a bunch, roughed up and hurt a bit, both physically and emotionally. At one point he got bloodied up, so much so that I had to run him to the nurse (a pride swallower for both of us) to get his nose looked at…and again…and again. He got back on the mat, bloodied and beat up when it happened. The Meltdown. He lost it, he started crying and crying and well you get the picture. It was a tough spot as a parent, to keep my emotions in check, to let him work through a tough spot in order to develop that mental toughness and character but at the same time not wanting your baby to get hurt. So there we were, Tyson bloodied and crying in front a room full of wrestlers and coaches. What should I do? I pulled him out of class, took him back to our hotel room (no big deal as it was only about 15 feet away) sat him on the bed, looked him square in the eye and I was honest with him. Something to the effect that (and I’m paraphrasing here)This is going to be tough. It will make you stronger, you will learn many great things about the sport and yourself during the process and with the right attitude, hard work and dedication you will get dramatically better. Not just dramatically better as a wrestler but as a person, too. I tried to explain the difference between emotional pain and physical pain. And most importantly I let him know that I am always there for him, with his best interests in mind and that I would never let him get seriously hurt. Also letting him know that the level of competition here is higher than anything he has seen before. He has to use the techniques he’s being taught.

While this whole scene palyed out Rulon Gardner was working with Tyson’s group. Rulon noticed Tyson having a tough time of it and when we went back to the session he took a real, genuine interest in Tyson and his progress. He helped Tyson more than he knows and it was such a great thing to see firsthand. It was humbling to have an athlete of that caliber take an interest in Tyson and his growth. So Tyson got back to embracing the grind and he made me so proud coming back excelling and having fun at the same time! He wanted to go swimming for days and days but we just didnt find the time, so our last night there he finally got to go swimming. There was a pool close to our room and one of my fondest memories of the trip was seeing him running around, not a care in the world, jumping into the pool, running around skipping with a huge smile on his face, and just having a great time being a kid. I stopped him took his face in my hands, looked him in the eyes and told him how proud I was of him. It was an amazing experience for all of us. This is just the beginning of our journey. Rulon said he expects to see these young men on Olympic medal stands some day. Maybe one of those young men will be Tyson Reid.