Wrestling has its demands.
Both physically and mentally, participants at all levels of the sport are asked to commit copious amounts of time, including training and consistently maintaining or cutting weight.
It’s not easy, but that doesn’t mean enjoyment is lacking.
In fact, when Winters Mill High School wrestling coach John Lowe created the Central Maryland Summer Wrestling League five years ago, he wanted to prove a point.
“That wrestling can actually be fun,” he said. “It’s a tough sport and the traditional way to train for it is like training Marines. Nobody wants to do boot camp — they love to wear the uniform, but they don’t want to do the boot camp. … I really want them to see in a whole different context that wrestling can be fun.”
The unique weekly league scheduled seven sessions this summer that started in June and come to a close Aug. 7. And like many of the popular recreational sports played throughout the summertime, Lowe strived to provide the same accessibility for wrestling.
“You see pick-up basketball games on the playground, if you go to the right park you can find pickup soccer games,” he said. “I wanted pick-up wrestling.”
The league features a High School division for grades 9-12. Because of a number of local athletes wrestling collegiately, Lowe implemented an Open division this year for college-aged wrestlers.
Participation is flexible, giving wrestlers a chance to juggle their summer life while still having the time to wrestle. They have the option to sign up for the entire season, or pay for a drop-in session on any given night.
Formal wrestling matches are usually an all-day commitment but the CMSWL provides an non-traditional twist to a traditional sport.
“The idea was to make this … a low pain-in-the-butt league,” Lowe said. “Get in, get out, [and] go home.”
Lowe said the competition ranges from those who just starting wrestling around one month ago to high school state champions. An array of experiences can be challenging, but Lowe noted the key is keeping the league small and personable by matching wrestlers up with similar skill sets.
“If you put a new guy with a state champion, you’re not going to get the state champion experience and you’re not going to get the new kid experience,” he said. “When those guys come I’m talking to their parents, I’m talking to their coaches and I’m talking to their teammates to see what’s this guy like.
“You don’t want to drive people away from the sport so what we try to do … is make those matchups a little bit more even.”
Liberty High School senior Noah Wienclawski, a 2018 Times first-team all-county first-team selection in the 182-pound weight class, is one of the high school wrestlers taking part in the CMSWL this summer. He said he has enjoyed ramping up the competition level by wrestling against college-level talent.
“I kind of just challenge myself because sometimes the high school division isn’t that strong, and I’ll wrestle some of the guys from the university division to try to better myself,” he said. “I know I’m wrestling kids that are most likely better than me and I’m only going to get better coming out of those matches.”
Wienclawski said wrestling is without a doubt his passion as he pursues a chance to compete collegiately in 2019.
The love for wrestling draws many to the sport with rewarding accomplishments.
Lowe is providing his coaching as camp director. But at the same time, he said the goal is to draw more to the sport with an environment that allows individuals to get better without pressure.
From there, he said, that passion will translate far past the playing days.
“The idea is, if we make people love the sport, they’re going to go back and they’re going to be better junior league coaches when they’re adults and parents,” Lowe said. “They’ll be better high school coaches if they get involved with that and they can go on and do it at the college level.”