Center Grove Wrestling Club Opens
The Center Grove (CG) Wrestling Club, a youth sports league that serves as a feeder to CG schools wrestling programs, trains students from kindergarten through eighth grade to help them transition to CG High School and become successful wrestlers. Currently, there are three returning state champs on the CG High School team – junior Hayden Watson who took 3rd place a year ago, senior Riley Rust who took 4th place last year and junior Drake Buchanon who took 7th place. Additionally, the freshman class of wrestlers shows considerable promise.
The club, which has been around for years, has always practiced at the high school. When COVID-19 hit in March, schools closed down and students were forced to cease practice. Coaches were told that it would probably be early 2021 when administrators would consider letting K-8 students back into the school to practice.
“Wrestling season starts in late October, so if we couldn’t practice this fall, we would have most definitely lost a season,” says Mathew Kelly, a 2014 CG grad and former wrestler who now coaches and runs the CG Wrestling Club.
Following graduation, Kelly joined the Marine Corps. In 2018 he returned to Center Grove, hoping to coach the sport he adores wholeheartedly.
“I wrestled my entire life,” he says. “If someone had told me at their age that we weren’t going to have a season, I would have thought my life was over.”
When Kelly learned that the club wouldn’t have access to the high school for the foreseeable future, he started asking his wrestling friends to put out feelers for a new location. In August the president of the club, Joel Buchanan, whose son Drake wrestles, secured a 6,400-square-foot space in Bargersville located next to Flap-Jacks, which he turned over to Kelly to transform.
“As long as the building has sat there, this space has never been rented before,” says Kelly, and when the club secured the location, the walls had exposed insulation and there was no electrical lighting.
The Center Grove wrestling community immediately rallied, offering their services in order to open the club as quickly as possible. Sean Bryk of A Perfect Climate provided heating and cooling products, including a smart thermostat, and offered to complete the installation work.
“We believe in helping out our youth programs. Youth programs allow kids to build relationships, be part of a team, be accountable for their role and learn responsibilities and leadership”, says Bryk.
Landon Clouser of L&D Painting donated paint and volunteered his painting services. Michael Claiborne handled the electrical work, while Dustin Rees of Gladiator Roofing and Restoration built out walls and hung drywall. No one charged for parts, products or labor. They simply wanted to help because many have children who love to wrestle.
The club leaders don’t expect the location to be a short-term solution but rather a long-term benefit, as the space will enable them to do things that other clubs can’t. For instance, they can host small tournaments and clinics. In late October, Bo Nickal, three-time NCAA wrestling champ for Penn State, ran a clinic for kids from around Indiana.
“I’m going to try my best to not just have this space benefit us, but benefit the area wrestling community in general,” Kelly says.
While most wrestling academies charge $100 or more per month, the CG Wrestling Club charges a one-time fee of $100 that covers the cost of the singlet members wear during the season. The remainder goes toward club operations.
“It’s not a high school program where the school athletic department gives us money,” says Kelly, who has two sons, Cayden, 3, and Micah, 1. “We have to make money to support the club, so we needed a space to generate some kind of income so that we could keep the club running.”
Kelly, who works full-time at a lawn care company, is at the club almost every day after he finishes work. He says his wife Paityn never used to know anything about wrestling, now she never misses a meet.
“I get paid probably 3 cents an hour after you count all of the hours I put in, but I’m not complaining,” adds Kelly, who is eternally grateful to the sport for shaping him into the man he is today.
“It kept me out of trouble – it taught me independence,” says Kelly, noting that while he likes the team aspect of the sport, he also appreciates its focus on personal accountability. “If something goes wrong, it’s on you. There aren’t ten other guys on the field you can blame it on. No wrestler who was ever great only did the minimal requirement. It was always the extra mile, the extra 10 takedowns at the end of practice, and the extra film watching.”
Kelly is grateful and unsurprised by the outpouring of support from the wrestling community.
“It is the strongest sports community in the world,” he says. “Wrestlers are just there for each other.”
The Center Grove Wrestling Club facility is located at 2991 Fulmer Drive, Suite 7 in Bargersville. For more information, call 317-506-5280.