Wrestlers from across the state and the country converged on the Centralia High School gym one hot week in June.
June 18-21, that was when 70-plus high school wrestlers as well as some of their younger
compatriots filled the mats for the annual Centralia Panthers/Feet to Back wrestling camp.
Wrestlers from as nearby as Moberly and from as distant as Miami, Florida spent three days sweating, drilling and grappling on the Panthers’ home mats.
The 12 wrestlers from Miami were there to train with their old friend Mike Schmidt, CHS class of 2010 and four-time state medalist for the Panthers. Schmidt had worked with them as an assistant coach at Miami-Palmetto, during his time there working as chiropractor while earning his post-graduate degree in neurology.
Under the guidance of Terrel Wilbourn men’s wrestling coach at Central Methodist University, the assembled wrestlers spent the camp in an in-depth review of the basics and their applications, both simple and advance, said Centralia Panthers Head Wrestling Coach Luke Gramke.
“The wrestlers also enjoyed training with new partners,” he said. “Wrestling against kids from Willard, Moberly, Mexico and Miami was a treat for them as opposed to wrestling the same team mates all the time. Meeting new people who shared the same passion for wrestling as they do was a big deal for them.”
Gramke said the camp, and seeing the Centralia wrestlers’ enjoyment of it was an affirmation for him and the rest of the Panther coaching staff as well.
“Hearing Coach Wilbourn teach the same techniques and approaches that we teach here in Centralia was a bit of an affirmation for us and the program,” Gramke said. “It also reinforced for our wrestlers that they are receiving high-level training here in Centralia.”
Ethan Leighton, CHS class of 2015, also a three-time state medalist for the Panthers as well as a varsity wrestler at Grand View University was also on hand to help his alma mater. “It just feels right to be back here wrestling and teaching,” Leighton said. “I’ve been doing this since 8th grade and you can tell the difference between wrestlers then and now. Now they all show a certain level of enthusiasm way above what we had five or six years ago.”
Looking at nationally-ranked youth wrestler Jaycee Shelton as she finished her drills, Leighton said girls become more involved in high school wrestling was to be expected.
“They are part of our athletic population,” he said. “And they have bought into programs just like the boys. The higher level of work, the higher level of intensity in the practices and the sport. That is the new normal and they are part of it.”