Connellsville wrestling success starts with youth programs
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Each year, the Connellsville High School wrestling team is one of the top Class AAA programs in the WPIAL. The program seems to churn out top-notch grapplers every year, and the team is always in the hunt for a WPIAL championship.
But perennial success doesn't start at the high school level. It begins at a much younger age, when many wrestlers from the Connellsville area begin developing their love for the sport in elementary school.
Connellsville is fortunate to have a tremendous Junior Olympic (elementary wrestling) and junior high program that have served as feeder programs for the high school team.
“Every year we have a group of kids, and the heart of that group are the kids from the JO and junior high programs,” Connellsville High School coach Tom Dolde said. “The junior high and Junior Olympic programs are the backbone of our program. That's where they learn the passion for the sport, and we are so lucky to have the people that we have involved in the program. That's where our tradition starts.”
This year, 58 kids took part in the Junior Olympic program. One of the keys to the success of Connellsville's Junior Olympic program is a willingness to compete at a number of different events. Nearly every weekend from November through March, young wrestlers are engaged in tournaments all over Western Pennsylvania.
Frank Ross, the coach of the Junior Olympic program, explained that the level of competition is determined by the amount of experience each wrestler possesses.
“I like to pick some of the tougher tournaments,” Ross said. “That's where the older kids go because that is where the tougher competition is at.”
Connellsville also hosts an annual tournament, which attracts top wrestlers from all over the region.
“We start them off with the basics, and we teach them the fundamentals to get to the next level,” Ross said. “The sixth-graders are preparing for the junior high level, and hopefully they stay in the program so that they can then wrestle at the high school level.”
Of course, when dealing with young kids, hard, daily practices don't produce the desired result.
“At this stage, you can't pound them every day because you'll chase them off,” Ross said. “One or two days a week we will have a takedown tournament, and the kids have a blast with that. We'll also do sumo wrestling, where they try to knock each other out of the circle.”
When the kids reach the junior high level, things get a little more serious. Getting better each day becomes a goal.
“It's consistency,” said Connellsville junior high coach Don Dolde, who just completed his 20th year of junior high coaching. “I try to model the junior high program after the high school program, and the Junior Olympic program does the same thing. Tom (Dolde) talks to the kids and when the kids see that, they want to wrestle for the program. Seeing the success at the high school level means a lot to me.”
Ross and Don Dolde each pointed out that much of the success can be attributed to the dedication of the many coaches and assistants that work with the kids. Many of the coaches are former Connellsville wrestlers who are giving back to the program, often coaching their own sons.
Parents also play a key role.
“We talk to the parents about having to be just as dedicated as the kids are,” Ross said. “The parents have to get the kids to practice and make sure they make weight. The dedication is very high with our parents. We tell them that they are entering our wrestling family. We eat, sleep and drink wrestling.”
And ultimately, the wrestlers have to have the desire to learn the sport and develop their own talents. This year, 15 Connellsville Junior Olympic and junior high wrestlers qualified for the Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling state championships, held in late March in Harrisburg. Five of the wrestlers won state medals.
“What made me want to be a wrestler is that I saw other people doing it,” said Jared Keslar, who finished fifth in the 70-pound weight class in the state 8U division. “I told my dad that this was something I wanted to do. I got excited when I made it to states, and I was excited to make it to the podium.”
Jason Black is the Local Sports Editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Cole is simply not good enough for Pirates
- New-look Steelers secondary is gaining some cohesion
- Penguins recall Maatta in time for season opener in Dallas
- Armstrong County Jail warden resigns
- FBI, other authorities serve search warrant on methadone clinic near Uniontown
- Pirates notebook: Tempers boil after Arrieta beaned
- Grandparents’ bids for child custody imperiled
- Doom and gloom at Bucs wild-card loss
- Penguins are hoping their days of drama are finally behind them
- LaBar: One of the best wrestling events ever
- Police looking for man who sexually assaulted Squirrel Hill woman