Pint-sized wrestlers collect the hardware at regionals, nationals
July 11, 2012
By Sebastian Moraga
The athletes with the sweet smiles and the confident stares did not hesitate for a second.
Quizzed about whether they would change something in their favorite sport, they all agreed on one thing — losing.
Added wrestler Isaiah McClure, “and bloody noses.”
McClure and his three wrestling buddies love the sport almost as much as they hate losing at it.
Not unusual for an athlete, but slightly unusual for children who are at least four years away from their first shave.
Nine-year-old Mark Marum, 8-year-old Benton Grisso, 7-year-old Kyan Zimmerman and 6-year-old McClure competed for the Snoqualmie Valley Wrestling Club and earned piles of hardware this spring and summer in state, regional and national tournaments.
They all earned tickets to regionals in Pocatello, Idaho. Zimmerman and McClure won regional matches, despite being among the youngest wrestlers there.
Grisso finished sixth in bantam freestyle, winning the Outstanding Bantam Wrestler award.
Marum finished fourth in Greco-Roman, third in folkstyle and first in freestyle
At nationals, Marum earned first place in freestyle and seventh in Greco-Roman.
“It was really cool,” he said of the tournament in Orem, Utah. “You get to be in a really big stadium and have a really big crowd watching you.”
He added, “It was really amazing to get my hand raised.”
Getting their hands raised (which happens when they win) attracts them to wrestling. Also attractive, Grisso and his national-champ buddy agreed, is “beating kids up.”
Zimmerman was even more succinct. To him, everything about wrestling is fun.
Like any sport fans, the foursome have wrestling heroes: Cedarcrest High School’s Carlos Toledano, a bevy of Mount Si High School wrestlers, and Olympic stars Ken Chertow and Dan Gable.
“Chertow teaches us how to be a scholar athlete,” Marum said of the wrestler who has held clinics in the Valley, “not a dumb jock. That’s one of his sayings.”
Besides the posters in their bedrooms, these four admire other wrestlers whom they know better: At some point, all four of the children’s fathers wrestled.
“It teaches them life lessons,” Tom Grisso, Benton’s father, said. “Teaches them they need to be good sports when they lose or win. Because life is not easy and this teaches them to be mentally tough.”
Smokey McClure, Isaiah’s father and coach, agreed.
“It truly allows these 5- to 10-year-olds a chance to figure out who they are,” he said. “I wrestled all my life and it’s not about wins or losses.
I mean, it’s cool to have all the achievements but it’s more about watching these kids develop.”
The development is just starting, if the children’s predictions come true.
They all said they want to wrestle in high school.
Being a dad of a pint-sized wrestler is more fun than nerve-wracking. Serious injuries pile up faster in other sports, Smokey said.
“It’s not a violent sport, it’s a tough sport,” he said.
Wrestlers at this level can wrestle almost year round. For the Marums, it’s an adventure.
“It’s great, it’s stressful, it’s a family sport,” said Ellen, Mark’s mom. “He has a sister that videotapes matches, my husband coaches. It’s 10 months a year, three times a week and we wouldn’t change a thing.”
Sebastian Moraga: 392-6434, ext. 221, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.snovalleystar.com.