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Board Approves Middle School Wrestling Proposal

The St. Joseph School Board approved a proposal that will start up wrestling programs at each public middle school.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Benton's Chance Barnes and Matt Garza got their first taste of wrestling before high school with the Metro Wrestling Club. That experience laid their foundation on the way to a state qualifying season in 2014.

"I wrestled whenever I was younger, and I think when it transferred over to my freshman year I was already a step ahead," Barnes said.

"It's a lot better when you get to know things instead of just coming out freshman year and going against kids that know a lot about the sport already," Garza said.

Now all students heading to St. Joseph public schools can dive into the sport before high school.

With the board approving the wrestling programs for Truman, Bode, Spring Garden and Robidoux Middle Schools Thursday night, coaches are hoping to see an increase in kids getting involved.

"There's interest out there," Central head coach Brett Swope said. "That's the big thing. We just want to provide an opportunity for those kids to get better."
  
"It's a definite advantage. They're going to get better," Barnes said. "They're not going to be working on just knowing the moves. They'll already know them."

The initial start-up for each middle school's wrestling program will range from $6,500 to $7,500.

Truman and Bode will practice at Central. Spring Garden students will go to Benton, and Robidoux will practice at Lafayette.

Each middle school will also hire a head wrestling coach that will serve as an assistant at their respective high school.

Benton and Lafayette are the final two Midland Empire Conference schools to add junior high wrestling programs, while Central was previously one of three Suburban League Schools without it.

"So many of us in town, we get kids that have never been on a mat until that very first day of freshman practice," Lafayette head coach Kevin Jones said. "They don't know how to do a stance, they have no idea. But it's like 'hey I think it's something I'll try and go out for.' You're way behind the eight ball."

"We've been behind for quite some time now," Swope said. "So it's just a great honor to be able to have that program in."

With the addition of the new sport for seventh and eighth graders, wrestling in St. Joseph has the potential to reach new heights.

"We're very excited," Swope said. "We're hoping to build it from the ground up, that way we can get everyone throughout the city a little bit better."
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