Children glean life lessons on wrestling mat

Stuttgart families are devoted to wrestling.

That much was clear at the Child, Youth and School Services regional wrestling tournament hosted in U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart at the Patch High School gym March 26.

The Stuttgart team had 48 wrestlers, twice as many as any other individual team, including USAG Schweinfurt, Bamberg, Ansbach, Hohenfels, Vilseck, Grafenwöhr.

“We have a consistently strong wrestling community,” said Caitlin Smith, CYS Services sports and fitness director.

The event was designed to provide young wrestlers with a chance “just to come out and give it [their] best shot and walk away feeling good,” Smith said.

Nine-year-old Gabby Peltier, Stuttgart’s sole female wrestler in the program, did just that. She wasted no time in pinning her first opponent of the day.

Her favorite wrestling move is the “cradle.”

“You grab the head, the leg and the arm, and you lock hands and lean to their shoulders,” she said.

Peltier, already a national and state wrestling champion, has high aspirations for her future in wrestling. “I want to go to the Olympics,” she said.

For now, she’ll settle for the respect of her male counterparts. “When I wrestle, some boys — they don’t really give it their all,” she said. “At practice, they think it’s a joke or something.”

That is, until they get on the mat with her. Peltier has one of the best pinning streaks on the Stuttgart team, according to Smith.

She is also one of many children in USAG Stuttgart whose parents are actively involved in the CYS Services wrestling program; her brothers Lance, 11, and Drew, 7, are also on the team.

The support of parents and volunteer coaches are a huge reason why the program is so successful, Smith said. “We have such a plethora of parent volunteers,” she added — almost as many coaches as there are wrestlers.

Many parents volunteer because they believe wrestling will instill valuable lessons in their children.

“It’s good discipline. It teaches [children] to work hard,” said Frank Hart, a volunteer coach and father of team member Andres Hart, 10. “Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.”

Another parent and volunteer coach, Russ Hill, said that wrestling teaches children individual responsibility.

 “The people that excel in this sport do so because of their self-discipline, self-confidence and a lot of individual hard work,” said Hill. “If you lose, you can’t blame it on your teammates.”

Hill’s son, Russ Jr., 13, uses this lesson to pick himself up after a rare loss. “I tell myself … ‘You’ve got more matches left. It’s in the history books,’” he said.

CYS Services wrestling is offered to children ages 6-14 during the winter sports season. For more information, call 431-2616/civ. 07031-15-2616.