News: Semper Fit Wrestling members compete on home base
Story by Kristen Wong
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII - The Semper Fit Center gym was the scene of sweat, screams and struggles as approximately 200 children statewide and a few from the mainland U.S. competed in a wrestling tournament June 1, 2013.
With the gym as hot as a sauna, children approached the mat in pairs, briefly shook hands and took their stances. As referees blew their whistles, the children grabbed each other firmly, struggling to pin each other down. More than 20 children from the Semper Fit Wrestling Hawaii Bulldogs, sporting red and gold singlets, represented the base.
Throughout the year, members of Semper Fit Wrestling Hawaii have competed in numerous events in the community.
Head coach Timothy Greenleaf has made an effort to reach out to local wrestling clubs and compete off base. Through this he said the team is well represented in the community and he has formed friendships with numerous local coaches.
“We don’t stick to Hickam or Pearl Harbor to (compete),” Greenleaf said. “We go everywhere.”
In fact, two Semper Fit wrestlers are also heading to an upcoming national competition.
The wrestlers practice two hours a day, three days a week year-round, at the School of Infantry-West Detachment Hawaii mat room. This is the 10th year the school opened its mat room to the team for which Greenleaf is extremely grateful.
Though discipline and technique are vital to wrestling, Greenleaf wanted to start by getting the children enthusiastic about the sport.
“I would like to instill first and foremost the love of wrestling so they continue it through middle school, high school and college,” Greenleaf said.
The team is made up of new and seasoned wrestlers, ages 4 to 17.
This is the second season for wrestler Benjamin McNett.
McNett said wrestling is “very tiring and very emotional.”
The 9-year-old wrestler said he prefers freestyle wrestling because it is more flexible than Greco-Roman style, which does not allow below-the-waist holds.
Jonathan Morrison, 7, has been wrestling for two years and said he enjoys competing in the wrestling matches. He hopes to eventually be a wrestling coach.
Christopher Piazza started wrestling after his brother, Cole, first started. Through wrestling, the 7-year-old said he met new people and increased his strength.
“It’s a long workout and you have to practice and practice and practice to get a medal,” Piazza said.
Cole Piazza, who already has a first place medal under his belt, said he enjoys wrestling, particularly a wrestling move in which he uses both legs to take down his opponent.
As the wrestlers struggled to pin each other, coaches from both sides hollered words of encouragement and advice to achieve the upper hand.
Tyler Lende, of Detroit Lakes, Minn., saw a sign publicizing the wrestling team and contacted Greenleaf to volunteer.
Lende, a Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay Marine, started wrestling at 5 years old, and competed throughout middle and high school. His love of wrestling inspired him to coach the team, but the children and the camaraderie among the coaches are what he enjoys the most.
Lende called the children’s performance this season “amazing.”
“I couldn’t have asked for anything else,” Lende said. “We had a few bumpy roads, but everyone keeps pushing, trying. As long as everyone tries their best that’s all we can ask for.”
Semper Fit Wrestling Hawaii is competing at Kalaheo High School June 7 and 8 in its final championship.