Wrestling club grapples with virus restrictions

Golden Eagles go online for training sessions during pandemic

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Aiden Cartwright would rather be wrestling with a teammate at practice, but since all wrestling has been shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he's turned toward other options.

Cartwright is a member of the Highlands Ranch-based Golden Eagles Wrestling Club. Head coach Scott McDoniel offers virtual training sessions for all the club members, and Cartwright is a participant.

“It's been going great,” said Cartwright, who will be a junior at Mountain Vista. “It's easy and I don't have to go to practice. I like it a lot. And it's good to stay in condition. It's not the same but it's better than nothing.

“Coach tries to have an aspect of competition. It's there but it is not the same. It's not like actually wrestling somebody. That's what I miss the most, live drills. I miss wrestling with people.”

McDoniel knew any wrestling competition would be on hold to at least July 1, so he tweaked his classes with virtual sessions.

The Golden Eagles Wrestling Club was founded in 2014 to offer youth wrestling in Highlands Ranch for athletes between the ages of 5 years old through high school age. It is a feeder program for wrestlers who attend or will enroll at Mountain Vista, Highlands Ranch, ThunderRidge, Rock Canyon and Elizabeth high schools

“It's not going to replace actual sparring practices where you are drilling and wrestling with a teammate,” explained McDoniel. “I do believe from a technique perspective it's not bad that we can take a step backwards and work on some basic fundamentals that a lot of time kids take for granted.

“It was actually not that difficult to set up. We started using Zoom from the standpoint I could see a lot of people at one time. I just send out a link to our club members and they just join in and they just come online and I see them from there.”

McDoniel runs six different classes that focus on certain days of the week. For instance, the classes are labeled as Mindset Monday, Technique Tuesday and Thursday and Workout Wednesday.

“You never know what is going to happen, and obviously with wrestling being a combative sport on the low end of the totem pole of social distancing guidelines, there's not much we can do with training right now,” said McDoniel. “We do a lot of what we call shadow drilling and using some visualization techniques and imagining your opponent in front of you as you are working specific techniques.

“The fundamental classes with the younger kids, we had as many as 20 come out at one time. With the advanced group we have 10 to 12. From a visualization perspective there have been a couple benefits and we've seen kids actually getting better. The younger kids don't have the distraction of the wrestling room where you have a lot of kids.”

Lance Alexander says he and his 12-year-old twin brother Emmett, who attend Coyote Creek Elementary School, know a lot more about wrestling thanks to McDoniel's instructions.

“I am actually learning a lot,” said Lance Alexander. “Our coach supplies us with equipment and we also have my own mat. Our coach likes to mix it up but keep us on schedule. It's been great. My brother enjoys it too and we're family so it gives me a wrestling partner.”

Easton Parker, an 8-year-old club member, has enjoyed his class experience.

“It's going good,” said Parker. “It's really fun on the mat. I work hard. I've learned a lot about techniques.”

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