First Posted: 1/15/2009
LUMBERTON In its second year of existence, the Seadogs Wrestling Club and coach Billy Roach are changing the perception of their sport in Robeson County.
One weekend after hosting “Brawl at the Mall”, in which the Seadogs Wrestling Club squared off against the Pembroke Braves Wrestling Club at Biggs Park Mall, the Seadogs have organized the first North Carolina Rookie State AAU Championships.
“It’s held for wrestlers who are in their first, second or third year in the sport,” said Roach. “This is something new that our state is doing to help inexperienced wrestlers get a bit of a confidence at a tournament more suited for them.
“When we go to a normal state tournament, we’ll be facing kids who’ve been wrestling since they were 3 and 4 years-old. By the time those kids are teenagers, the caliber of teams and the caliber of wrestlers is very, very high.
The tournament will feature wrestlers between the ages of 4 and 17 according to Roach.
As of Wednesday, the Seadogs had booked 47 clubs for the tournament, drawing programs from as close as Fayetteville and as far as Jacksonville.
“We sent out 96 formal invitations, and we weren’t expecting to get that many replies because there are tournaments in Raleigh and out west that same weekend,” said Roach. “But that didn’t hurt our registration at all, surprisingly. This seems to be the tournament of the weekend.”
To Roach, however, the tournament isn’t just about getting his kids match-day experience before heading to the North Carolina AAU State Championships on Feb. 14.
It’s about drawing kids into the sport and helping them find reasons to stay involved.
“Something like this is what we need to do if we want to keep kids around,” said Roach. “This is really going to reduce the number of wrestlers leaving the sport after their first year. An initial lack of success can cause kids to quit and we’re trying to find ways around that.
“So, we’re going to put our kids against other kids with the same experience level, rather than them finding themselves going against more accomplished wrestlers week after week. If we can do that, we can keep them around and that’s the main goal.”
The tournament will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday at Lumberton High School