While passing through Webster Groves High School's Roberts Gym on my way to visit a friend, I stopped to watch part of a wrestling tournament. I was really impressed with how the Webster Groves junior varsity and freshman wrestling teams were standing while cheering on sophmore Josh Killion. Next, I noticed the diversity on the team, which includes three girls and a visually impaired student.
Subsequently, I visited a couple of the wrestling practices to see whether this camaraderie extended beyond wrestling meets and whether everyone was involved in practice. During these practices everyone worked hard, including the coaches, who demonstrated wrestling moves. Wrestling might be the only sport (that I know of) where the coaches physically work as hard as the wrestlers during practice.
Head Coach James Lemay was eager to share information with me about his program. He said told me that the seniors on the team are Matt Hubbard (120 pounds), who has medaled in several tournaments; Alex Reynolds (132 pounds), who won key matches this year at 132 and 138 pounds.; Demetri Westbrook (160 pounds) who placed first at the Riverview Gardens meet and second at the Warrensburg, MO, invitational meet; and Mohammed Saffaf (220 pounds) who placed second at the Riverview Gardens meet and won key matches at Heavyweight and 220.
I asked Coach Lemay about Casey Scott, who has a vision impairment. He said, “Casey is one of the hardest working people we have on the team. He is consistently positive and has grown as a wrestler, athlete and teammate over the past two years.”
Coach Lemay further talked about the female wrestlers, “Ellie Hintz (106 pounds) won several matches; Kayla Mack (132 pounds) wrestled tough and has fought hard all year; and Savannah Bierman (145 pounds) showed a lot of heart and fights in every match. This is the first year we have had any girls finish the year, and the most girls we’ve ever had on the team.”
While at a meet, I spoke with Ellie Hintz’s mom to see how she felt about her daughter wrestling.
“At first we were against the idea of Ellie wrestling and being part of a boy’s team," Mrs. Hintz said. "She insisted on training for one week, and then she’d make up her mind if she wanted to continue. Ken and I supported her idea only because we thought she’d surely quit due to the intense workout (three hours a day). Well, she loved it!”
The Hintz's came up everyday for the last 30 minutes to watch her workout on the mats and to talk with the coaches about a girl being part of the team.
"We were so impressed with the discipline and ‘gentlemanly’ conduct that the coaches expected from the wrestlers (on and off) the mat and the level of support that they were offering Ellie," Mrs. Hintz said. "We approved of her continuing another week (all the time thinking she’d quit on her own)."
However, Ellie encouraged other girls to join her, and after several weeks, Savannah and Kayla joined her for practices.
"We now encourage her to compete and to do her personal best, Mrs. Hintz said. "Lucky for Ellie there is a freshman boy (in her weight class) that she is pitted against at practice.”
Coach Lemay concluded with this assessment of the team: “As a team we have had ups and downs this year, but our entire JV/Freshman team has made massive strides and improvements this year."
He added: "Our only state qualifier that has returned this season is (Heavyweight) Marlon Hampton. Marlon is an excellent wrestler, and we are expecting big things from him. This year we also expect several of our other wrestlers to make it through districts and make it to state.”
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