HITTING THE MAT: The Making of A State Champ or At Least A Good Man! (Blog 2)

Pre-Season Practice Blog 2


“Dad, can you bring me to your old friend John Knapp’s to wrestle before the regular season begins?” asked my boy Dakota.

“Wow! You want to go big time here with KT KIDZ Wrestling! I guess you’re really serious about this wrestling thing.” I responded to my son Dakota as I was a bit caught off guard with his sudden and deep interest in wrestling.

To tell you the truth, I thought I would have a few more months before any of this wrestling stuff happened if it happened even at all. And I knew that his mother wasn’t going to be happy with Dakota’s sudden interest in wrestling. And she certainly wasn’t going to be pleased with him not doing his fall sport of cross-country running so he could do pre-season wrestling training.

This new change in our family agenda wasn’t going to be easy on any of us. We have five children who are all involved in extra-curricular activities. So, one can imagine the juggling my wife and I have to do already to get all the kids to where they need to go.

Now, throw into the mix me bringing Dakota 45-minutes away every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night this fall so he can wrestle with Coach John Knapp. Then throw in a mother’s natural tendency to worry about her kids, and you all can already see how this was going to complicate things. This new arrangement was going to be an easy sell to my wife, Dakota’s mom.

Well, thankfully my wife Jennifer, Dakota’s mom, finally relented. However, she did let us know repeatedly loud and clear how she wasn’t a big fan of Dakota wrestling, and me being 45-minutes away three nights a week.

So, Dakota and I were off in the car to his first pre-season wrestling practice at Coach John Knapp’s place. John is my old East Hartford High School wrestling teammate from the old days. He is also my old Junior Olympian teammate from when we both spent some time out in Iowa the home of Dan Gable the best wrestler and wrestling coach that ever lived. Now, all these years later, John Knapp is one the top wrestling coaches in Connecticut, and perhaps even the whole country.

So, I knew with confidence that my boy would be in good hands at KT KIDZ Wrestling in Rocky Hill, Connecticut. And to tell you the truth, I did think it was a good idea to get my boy some pre-season wrestling with me, and my old buddy John Knapp before Dakota’s regular high school season began. It just makes sense to prep him, so he doesn’t get beat up on day 1 in his high school season.

You see, once Dakota officially begins his high school wrestling season, he is going to be competing against kids who have been wrestling for years, and that usually a formula for getting beat up a lot. And getting beat up a lot in front of your classmates isn’t much fun, and makes some kids want to quit.

I don’t want Dakota’s wrestling career to be over as soon as it starts. I want him to have a fighting chance at this. So I’m thrilled he asked me about my old buddy John Knapp. My boy Dakota must be brilliant. And he must have already known somehow what I had been thinking or would be thinking about pre-season wrestling before I even realized I had been thinking it.

As we pulled up in the car at John Knapp’s first practice, I might have been more nervous than my boy Dakota. Hey, John and I came up together, and I knew John’s practice was going to be hard. And I also knew that kids there would be well-trained. Furthermore, Dakota isn’t in wrestling shape and was still a novice.

Surprisingly Dakota held his own pretty well in his first practice at KT KIDZ Wrestling with just the moves I had been showing him in our unfinished basement. However, I could see him getting more and more tired as practice went on. At one point, he tried to come off the mat telling me that his vision was blurry. I told him to get back out there that wrestling isn’t over until the coach says it’s over. He bravely went back out there. However, he was out of gas, and the next few wrestlers put some pretty good moves on him. Dakota was now in some uncharted territory. And I wondered how he would respond to it.

When practice was finally over, Dakota practically stumbled off the mat and out to my car where he got a calf-cramp trying to get in my vehicle that was painful as all heck. While cringing in pain he said that he liked wrestling and that this sport isn’t for wimps before he passed out and slept all the way home.

“Wow!” I thought. My boy got a taste of wrestling tonight and got to feel first-hand what it was like to be more tired than he had ever been before in his entire life. And furthermore, he said he liked it and that this sport wasn’t for wimps before he passed out. Dang! Maybe he won’t be one of those kids who quits once they get to feel what wrestling is all about. Perhaps he’ll stick it out and will wrestle with his school team in the winter, too. And maybe the sport of wrestling will help me make him a good man someday… Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. Let’s wait and see what next week brings…





Learn more about this book, A Sprint to the Top, that DAN GABLE endorsed:



Dan Gable Olympic Gold Medalist and Wrestler of the Century

Dan Blanchard, Teen Leadership, The Storm

Dan Blanchard is a best-selling author, and award-winning speaker,
and educator. www.DanBlanchard.net