By Marty Farmer
The threefold purpose of the Bulldog Wrestling Club is to encourage area youth to have fun, learn to wrestle and become a better athlete.
In only its second season, the BWC has approximately 60 wrestlers who can participate in one of two levels, club or team. Club level focuses on the aforementioned three staples of the program, while team level incorporates a higher level of competition and intensity.
A youth wrestling club previously existed but it become too competitive and tournament-oriented.
That's when Tom Lupfer and a handful of other dads convened to discuss the recreation of Junior Bulldogs wrestlers with different points of emphasis.
"There was a club before Bulldog Wrestling Club," Lupfer said. "It was a very good club but reached some hard times. The focus was on making it more of a highly competitive team club that competed in tournaments. It really didn't work and the number of wrestlers went down.
"A couple of us dads got together and decided to get the club back to its roots, which meant wrestling for fun and overall development for athletes."
The game plan is working.
And as a feeder program for RBHS wrestling, some of the youth wrestlers at BWC could be future Bulldog grapplers at the high school level.
"It's important to have kids who want to have fun and learn how to wrestle," Lupfer said. "That's how you build a program. You don't build it with superstars; you build it with depth."
Lupfer has a good relationship with RBHS second-year wrestling head coach Nick Curby. In fact, he wrestled at Lyons Township High School where Curby's dad coached him.
"We brought back the Bulldog Wrestling Club when Mike Boyd was the wrestling head coach at RBHS in 2014-2015," Lupfer said. "He was a great help and really appealed to the kids.
"Then, RB had a changeover and Nick became the varsity head coach. I was very happy that Nick was picked for the position because he really believes in what we're trying to build with our program."
In his first season at RBHS last season, Curby enjoyed a fine debut. Talented seniors like Josh Contreras, Julian Blanco, Joey Swallow and Chris Colvin fostered a smooth transition from Boyd to Curby.
"I let our wrestlers know I came to RB to win," Curby said. "We're not taking any steps backward."
The Bulldog Wrestling Club consists of mostly Riverside and Brookfield and some North Riverside kids K thru 8th grade. Attempting to create a high school- like season, BWC takes part in 7-8 tournaments a year.
The allure of the program is its multiple benefits. Lupfer believes BWC offers a fun, supportive environment for kids to learn about wrestling.
"A baseball player, soccer player or any kind of athlete can get better through our program," Lupfer said. "Spending time in the weight room can help any athlete's development."
BWC teaches wrestling fundamentals but also focuses on discipline, character building, and teamwork. The balance, strength, agility and conditioning of wrestling will help kids excel at every other sport they want to play.
Both boys and girls are welcome to join the Bulldogs Wrestling Club. One of the club's top champions is Danea Vargas.
"It's a great sport for all kids, but the girls are so much better than the boys at a young age," Lupfer said. "They learn technique perfectly and dominate."
The upcoming season begins Tuesday, Nov. 7 and the last practice will be held on Thursday, Feb. 22.
BWC practices are held in the RBHS wrestling room on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6:00 pm to 7:45pm. There will be an additional Wednesday practice for team members on the Wednesdays before competitions.
Thanks to a grant from Riverside Township, the Bulldog Wrestling Club is able to offer a limited amount of scholarships to those needing financial assistance. Scholarships waive the annual fee and covers out-of-pocket expenses for things like gear and tournament fees.
For more information, visit www.jrbulldogwrestling.com.