They say, “To be the best, you have to train with the best.”
That’s what many area wrestlers have been doing the past two days at the Woody Williams Armory as Troy Letters, a former All-American and current head wrestling coach at Clarion University in western Pennsylvania, was the guest clinician for the camp.
Letters, who won an NCAA championship at Lehigh and finished with a career record of 115-9, was excited to be a part of the camp, which meant he got to get a few hours away from the normal tasks that come with being a collegiate coach.
“Being a college coach, there’s a whole lot of aspects to the program like recruiting and paperwork. But I love teaching,” Letters said. “Being able to come here and teach for five hours with these young kids is great. I’m teaching them things that I teach my college guys but at a slower pace.”
Wrestlers who attended the two days were able to learn techniques that were new to likely anyone who was watching, even Fairmont Senior assistant coach Joe Naternicola.
“He’s showing them things that I’ve never seen before,” Naternicola said on the camp’s final day. “I thought I knew a lot of wrestling from my years of experience, but there’s so much that he’s doing that even I don’t know.”
Drills that dealt with how to attack with both hands, how to finish leg attacks and how to take those moves and apply them with pinning combinations were among just a handful of the things that Letters, along with two of his wrestlers from Clarion, were teaching grapplers at the camp.
While younger wrestlers were learning the basic techniques, a slew of high school wrestlers were there to get better.
For Fairmont Senior’s Brent Barber, the experience was invaluable.
“It’s very important to learn from guys like (Letters),” Barber said. “He’s a very good wrestler and has wrestled nationally. And now he’s teaching us a lot of stuff.”
Barber, who won a state championship last year after wrestling for just two seasons, said he learned a lot in terms of technique. But the real teaching point came in the form of work ethic.
“He told us to never stop and just keep going. Don’t give them time to react,” he said. “Those guys are usually bigger than me, so I can apply that by just working harder. If they get out of breath, I’ll keep going.”
In addition to Barber and several other Fairmont Senior wrestlers, grapplers from smaller programs such as West Fairmont Middle School were in attendance, something that both Naternicola and Barber believe will pay off in a few seasons.
“It’s going to help the program because those kids will move up and be in high school,” Barber said. “They’re just going to get better.”
Naternicola echoed his heavyweight’s sentiment.
“If they’ll take it and start training with it and use it on into the future when the season starts, they’ll definitely be better,” the assistant coach said. “The stuff that he’s showing these kids, if they pick up on half of it, they’ll be better wrestlers.”
At the end of the day, though, Letters received just as much out of it as the wrestlers that he was teaching.
“It’s why I’m in the sport. It's why I love the sport,” Letters said. “I love to coach wrestling, and I love to teach it.”
Email Matt Welch at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.