In the hierarchy of sports' media exposure, the wrestling mat often lies well behind the gleam of the Friday Night Lights and the crack of the October bat. And to many sports fans, this comes as no surprise; it is easy to argue that wrestling lacks the flash of a touchdown grab or the awe of a home run to deep center field.Or, on the contrary, perhaps the "flash" associated with wrestling is so far beyond other sports that it has entered the realm of the utterly ridiculous. This "flash" is the quick-conjured image of leather-laden gladiators in a ring, diving off of corner posts and wailing upon opponents with metal folding chairs. If that weren't enough, these wrestlers also go by "flashy" names such as "Adam Bomb," "Sgt. Slaughter," and "'Buff' Bagwell, the Handsome Stranger."
It is little surprise, then, why a parent's face might react to their child's question: "Can I join wrestling?" the same way he or she would react to the question "Can I get a tattoo on my forehead?"
"The public picture has enough negatives to deter most any parent," says former wrestler and author Bill Campbell in his Parent's Guide to Youth Wrestling, "but you can rest assured that reality unveils a different, much more positive picture."
Skeptics might be quick to dismiss that statement, but fortunately enough, part of that positive picture can be found locally in the Southern Lehigh Youth Wrestling program.
Gearing up for the upcoming season, the Solehi Youth Wrestling program offers both a fair balance of competition and plain old fun, which new Head Coach Eric Kressler believes is an important asset when dealing with wrestlers at the elementary school level.
"The big difference is you're dealing with kids," Kressler said in a phone interview. "Some take it seriously, some just have fun."
Kressler added that often-times, for the younger kids, wrestling practices will end with games like dodgeball and tugof-war, activities that focus less on competition and more on fun.
However, that's not to say that the program is without its share of competition. Like most sports, Southern Lehigh competes in a league, and recently the team has ranked as high as third out of sixteen teams in the East Penn League.
" W e should have a really good team this year-(we should be) back to where we were two years ago," Kressler said.
But along with success on the mat, Kressler also stressed the coaches' and parents' strong desire for success in the classroom. Wrestling teaches focus and determination that carries over into all phases of life, and it is a practice at Southern Lehigh Youth Wrestling to check up on each student's report card.
"A lot of parents will notice (their children) are doing well in school," Kressler commented. "I've seen that in so many kids already."
In fact, Kressler added that wrestlers often come up to him excited and proud, displaying their report cards for him and other coaches to see.
And this is the action, or perhaps as Bill Campbell says, the reality, which is difficult for any parent or skeptic to ignore.
So should you have a child interested in wrestling, or an interest in volunteering your time to the organization, visit the Southern Lehigh Youth Wrestling Web site, www.goslyw.com, where you will also find a downloadable copy of Campbell's Parent's Guide to Youth Wrestling.
Official team sign-ups will be held on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 and 2. Should your child simply wish to see what a practice is like, the first four wrestling practices, held after Columbus Day, are free, non-obligatory sessions. Questions may be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peter Kerr is a freelance reporter for The Saucon News. He can be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com