There are plenty of challenges to starting a new sport at the high school level. In November of 2021, Community High School will begin practice for its inaugural wrestling season for both boys and girls. Fortunately for Community, wrestling is not the first rodeo for head coach Christopher Slaughter...
There are plenty of challenges to starting a new sport at the high school level.
In November of 2021, Community High School will begin practice for its inaugural wrestling season for both boys and girls.
Fortunately for Community, wrestling is not the first rodeo for head coach Christopher Slaughter.
"I am originally from Chapel Hill and wrestled at Forrest High School, where I was a five-year letterman and a four-year state qualifier," Slaughter said. "I got the opportunity to wrestle in college. I didn't have a very successful collegiate career, but it taught me a lot about what's required to get you to the next level."
"I have coached wrestling at Springfield High School and Centennial High School," Slaughter added.
"I took a little time off to pursue my career and my education and got back into coaching about five years ago and took over the wrestling program at Forrest High School."
"We were pretty successful there with the new classifications," Slaughter said. "I think we hit the iron at the right time. We had a lot of successful young men that have gone on and done some really good things. Several are pursuing wrestling at the college level."
"Over the course of my career, I've had the opportunity to work with some programs that are just now beginning and programs that are well established," Slaughter added.
The interest for wrestling at Community started when Slaughter interviewed for an assistant coaching position with the football team.
"I have to attribute that to Coach (Chris) Grooms and (Principal) Dr. (Robert) Ralston," Slaughter said. "They were straight shooters with me when I was interviewing for the position. They looked at my resume and were looking for a football guy. They asked if I had a choice, would I want to do wrestling? I told them I would like to coach wrestling and it would be a great impact for the kids and the community."
"I presented my ideas to Dr. Ralston and Coach (Ralph) Edwards and made sure we had a good plan in place," Slaughter added. "Let's pursue it and let's try to get these kids the opportunity to do something different and be a part of a team."
"Currently, I have about 38 students that are interested in the sport," Slaughter said.
Ralston added to the sentiments of Slaughter.
"Right now, we're looking to see if it is something that can fill some of the other voids for some of our athletes that aren't involved in basketball and hopefully can find some success and get the kids involved in another activity to build relationships," Ralston said.
When a school has never had a wrestling program, what is the plan and where do you start?
"Fundraising," Slaughter said. "I've had a lot of interest and I've been making a lot of phone calls. We're trying to raise money for a mat right now. We're trying to get uniforms that are called singlets. Just trying to get the basic necessities."
"I think there's going to be support once we get the word out," Slaughter added.
"They'll see what we're trying to do for the kids and they'll want to be involved with that."
The costs are high to start a wrestling program.
"I personally went and purchased a practice mat. It is nothing that we can have a competition on," Slaughter said. "But it will be something that can get us started, get us in a practice room, and get us working on fundamentals."
"But to purchase a match mat, you're looking at anywhere from $7,000 - $10,000," Slaughter added. "My current goal is to contact any companies that may be interested in sponsoring a mat and putting their logos on that mat."
"For a singlet, you're looking at about 100 dollars a uniform," Slaughter said. "But you'll be able to get five to seven years out of it."
Slaughter plans to start work in the weight room for his potential wrestlers this summer.
"I'm the assistant football coach as well, so I'm going to be helping Coach Grooms in the weight room," Slaughter said. "Coach Grooms and I have been discussing a way that we can maximize our resources and get the kids in the weight room for both football and wrestling."
Slaughter discussed what he felt were the biggest challenges facing the new wrestling program.
"I've got to educate my coaches who have agreed to assist me in proper techniques and form and being able to relay that information to the athletes who have never wrestled before," Slaughter said.
"Facilities are always a challenge when you're trying to schedule around other sports," Slaughter added. "But that's no different than any other school."
With the new TSSAA classification alignment kicking off this fall, Community will be facing stiff competition.
"We will be in the Class A division, which is 1,200 students or less," Slaughter said. It's going to include Page, Tullahoma, Lawrence County, Marshall County, Cascade, and Eagleville."
"We have a full schedule at this point," Slaughter added. I have tentatively set up some home dates that I've got to iron out and make sure we get our mats so we can host those."
Slaughter mentioned the key to a successful wrestling program is to start kids at an early age.
"I am currently working to promote a Bedford County youth wrestling," Slaughter said. "That's ultimately how we're going to do better as a program."
For a newcomer to wrestling, Slaughter explained what a fan can expect.
"It's kind of hard to say, but it's a sport you've got to watch," Slaughter said.
"It's very different from a basketball game where you understand the ball went in a hoop and there's a score," Slaughter added. "A lot of times I get with young people who've never seen the sport and say they're just rolling around so how are they scoring?"
"It's actually quite simple. You get points for taking your opponent down and controlling their position or turning them to their back and essentially pinning them which will end the match at any time," Slaughter said.
"For all of our fans that are new, I plan on having flyers so they can understand what our refs are calling and what just happened there," Slaughter added.
The range of weight classes makes the sport attractive for the wrestlers.
"We've got 14 different weight classes which I think is awesome because they call this a sport that is for everybody," Slaughter said. "Our weight classes go from 106 all the way to 285 pounds."
Slaughter has seen personally what wrestling has done in his life and what he expects to pass on to athletes that participate in the sport.
"Dan Gable, '72 Olympic champion and three-time national champion, said that once you've wrestled, everything in life is easier. In my experience, I've think he's dead on with that," Slaughter said.
"Wrestling really prepared me for adversity and I've seen it in my coaching career," Slaughter added. "I've seen it really prepare other kids and other athletes for adversity and how to overcome and persevere through that adversity."
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