Lauren Rioux Finds Success as Avon Middle School South Wrestling Coach
Photographer / Amy Payne
When Lauren Rioux’s oldest son, Raymond, was in kindergarten, he came home with a flyer that invited kids to try out for the Avon Wrestling Club. Right from the start, he was all in.
“He thought he was going to go wrestle with the WWF,” Rioux says with a chuckle. “We had to have a little talk so that he understood that, no, he would not be jumping off ropes in a ring.” Despite the lack of dramatics, Raymond fell in love with the sport, as did each of her other four sons. Raymond was 5 when he started wrestling. Luke and Nathan were 4, Sam was 3 and Miles was 2.
“Our family is a little extreme,” says Rioux, who works full-time as the office manager at BGW Construction.
Now Raymond is 21, Luke is 16, Nathan is 15, Sam is 12, Miles is 5, and wrestling continues to take center stage for the entire Rioux family – including mom.
Last year Avon Middle School South didn’t have a wrestling coach, which meant it looked like the athletes were not going to have a season. Rioux didn’t want her son or any of the other students to lose a season, so she went to the athletic director and told him she’d give coaching a shot. Though she had never officially coached before, she had ample experience, having watched her sons participate in the sport for the last 15 years.
“I knew absolutely nothing about wrestling before my kids got into it, but I’ve watched a whole lot of practices and have learned from watching and listening to other coaches,” says Rioux, who asked her older boys to help her write practice plans.
The wrestling season begins in the middle of November and finishes up in mid-March. Each season consists of between 25 and 30 matches. Every year Avon Middle School South participates in a county championship and conference championship. Last year, for the first time ever, the Avon Middle School South wrestling team was declared the county champions.
“It was pretty exciting,” Rioux says. “The kids were so happy. They wanted to take team selfies with the scoreboard in the background.”
One of her athletes created his own special secret handshake, which he would do whenever he came off the mat.
This year’s county finals will take place on March 2. The conference tournament will be March 4.
“Last year the kids were excited to be county champions,” Rioux says. “There was a lot of screaming and yelling, and jumping up and down. I may have gotten a little teary eyed because I was so proud.” She says her pride was amplified since a lot of the kids on the team were first-year wrestlers.
While it’s helpful to start any sport at a young age, Rioux maintains that students can pick up this one later in life and still do well.
“If you have the slightest athletic build in your body, you can pick up wrestling in fifth, sixth or seventh grade and still find some success,” says Rioux, whose favorite part of coaching is spending time with the students.
“They make me happy,” she says. “They make me smile with the funny things they say and do.”
Though middle schoolers can get a bad rap for being wild and immature, Rioux says she hasn’t had any issues with a single boy on the team. They are all respectful and kind.
Now she’s in year two of coaching. The most challenging aspect of the job is the time commitment because not only are two-hour practices held on weekdays, but there are also meets. Plus, she’s busy attending her other sons’ meets and tournaments, many of which are out of state. Her boys are part of all-star travel wrestling teams that travel to out-of-state tournaments. These teams consist of kids from all over the country who are the top-tier athletes in various divisions (elementary, middle and high school). Her sons have made friends from places like Florida, Ohio, Michigan and Colorado. Two of her boys have been to Europe to train and compete.
“All my free time is spent in wrestling activities,” Rioux says.
That’s not an exaggeration. Rioux serves on the board of directors for both the Avon Wrestling Club and the Indiana State Wrestling Association, which is the governing body for wrestling. Plus, she helps run Contenders Wrestling Academy in Brownsburg.
She doesn’t have much free time, but when she does, she likes to spend it taking nature walks and traveling to her lake house in Brown County.
“We go there in the summer and it’s a nice distance, being just an hour and 20 minutes away,” she says.
Rioux is pleased that her sons all gravitated to a sport that she feels teaches discipline, independence, confidence, mental toughness, teamwork and work ethic.
It’s crazy to think that it all started with a flyer 16 years ago.
“Raymond was really terrible when he began,” Rioux says. “He got his butt kicked all the time but kept going back because he liked the sport so much. I like teaching these athletes responsibility and how to become better men as they get older.”