By Ryan Kaczmarski
On the weekend of Oct. 12, wrestlers gathered from across the country and spent two days at Lutheran West High School learning their craft from one of the best.
Former U.S. Olympic wrestler Ken Chertow brought his traveling “Weekend Warrior” wrestling camp to the high school, located in Rocky River, to give training to kids from second grade all the way through high school.
Chertow has had success at all levels of competition, both as a competitor and as a coach. After winning two state championships and Outstanding Wrestler awards, he finished his prep career by winning the Junior Nationals in both freestyle and Greco-Roman, and he also won the Junior World Championship.
As a wrestler at Penn State, Chertow was a three-time Academic All-American and NCAA All-American, World Espoir champion, Pan American champion and 1988 U.S. Olympian.
“When I was in college, I worked as a (wresting) camp counselor all summer,” Chertow said. “I’d go to different camps and teach everywhere I could. I filled my summers training and working in camps, so when I graduated from college, I started my own camp.
“Slowly, but surely, we started to add more locations.”
During the first five years of running his camps, Chertow also coached at The Ohio State University and at Penn State. While at OSU, he helped build the Buckeyes into a national power.
In 1994, Chertow left college coaching to focus his time and energy on helping young people through his wrestling school and to devote more time to developing his camp system.
“(The campers) will learn high-level techniques that work on state champion and college wrestlers,” he said. “It’s not just simple leg attacks, it’s the finer details and subtleties that will take them to a higher level. They’re going to put themselves in an environment with other serious wresters and coaches.
“Everyone will leave our camp with the willingness to go home and work hard consistently to pursue very high goals.”
Area coaches were on hand to help run the camp, and they hold Chertow’s teachings in high regard.
“Typically, what they learn at these camps is not so much about wresting, it’s about developing friendships within the wresting community,” Scott Slater, director of the Hudson Youth Wrestling club, said. “They come out and they meet kids from all over the country. They learn different styles of wrestling that they wouldn’t see training with just one coach. In their own wrestling room, they only learn one style from their particular coach. Here, there are multiple coaches from all over the country, with kids from all over the country, showing them different styles.”
Having such a prestigious camp come to Lutheran West High School should have a positive effect on the Longhorns’ team and other local squads.
“Getting the kids out in October is really important,” Lutheran West varsity head coach David Ressler said. “The kids who are really focused and want to excel are going to going to put the preseason work in. To bring in someone like Ken Chertow – an Olympian – and his staff is great for Northeast Ohio, Lutheran West included. We have a bunch of guys here.
“Ken covers everything in his camps, including nutrition, (weight) lifting for different age groups, technique and the importance of having good grades,” he added. “He even spent a half-hour with the parents talking to them about all those things as well. The kids will go away with a lot of information from this weekend.”
Some of the parents present at the camp just marveled at how much the kids were learning.
“This (camp) has introduced different techniques my son has never seen,” North Olmsted resident Greg Tucholski, father of camper Luke, age 8, said. “This is a different level of intensity than at the local club. Just seeing the better wrestlers coming from all over, and seeing more experienced wrestlers, has progressed him from the level at the North Olmsted club.”
The high-school-level campers showed the younger campers how to do things the right way.
“It’s great to have these older guys here to show the younger guys how to execute the drills,” Erie, Pa., resident Paul Wojcik, father of camper Alex, age 8, said.
Chertow will be conducting his next “Weekend Warrior” camp at his home training center in State College, Pa., Nov. 23-25. For more information regarding Chertow’s camps, go online to www.kenchertow.com, e-mail the camps at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 814-466-3466.