If ever you grapple a guy with Houston Wrestling, don’t get caught wearing the “hat wrestle.”
“You kind of chicken-wing his arm and then walk around his head,” explains Grade 12 wrestler Allan Davidson. “Then you flip him over and can pin him.”
Hat wrestles, gator holds and single-leg takedowns are just a few moves Davidson and ten other wrestlers were coming to grips with at practice last week.
It’s only the team’s first season, but coach Randy Chapman said the boys are already throwing their weight around.
“We came second in Smithers with only a handful of kids,” said Chapman, laughing. With two tournaments already under their belts, he said the team is on track to win 20 medals this year.
Houston Wrestling got its start even before Chapman moved to Houston last spring from Chetwynd. Wrestlers on the Chetwynd Champions, a team he started there, gave their Houston friends on Facebook a heads-up that their favourite coach was headed their way.
Jaron Flett, the team’s assistant coach, said Chapman is totally dedicated to the team. Both he and Flett took graveyard shifts at Houston Forest Products so they could come in and train the students three days a week.
“He never misses a practice,” Flett said.
That was abundantly clear last Wednesday, when Chapman showed up even though he had one arm in a splint to treat a pulled tendon.
“Don’t try that one today—I’ll teach it to you when I’m good,” he said to one student trying out a Roman tilt.
That move is tricky, Chapman explained. It means flipping an opponent right over top of you, something that could easily hurt the guy’s neck if it’s done wrong.
Making sure wrestlers enjoy the sport without injuries is a big reason Chapman started coaching back in 1990. He had wrestled in high school, but dropped his own chance to go to nationals after his coach got banned for teaching cheap shots that injured people.
Chapman got pulled back into the sport years later, when he saw that kids at a Chilliwack drop-in centre would really benefit from a combat sports team. He showed them Thai boxing and wrestling moves, but it was the wresting that stuck.
“From there, the kids talked me into a competitive wrestling team and I just kept coaching,” he said. “Everywhere I’ve moved I’ve started a team.”
As he goes, Chapman continues to keep a close eye on his students’ safety. But that doesn’t mean the guys are holding back.
“I know how to get them going,” he said. “They know how to work.”
Towards the end of practice, Chapman set up a close-fought exhibition match between wrestlers Dustin Darling and Allan Davidson.
Halfway in, Darling was ahead by six points—the minimum points lead a wrestler needs to win if the match reaches the two-minute limit.
But suddenly Davidson squirmed out of Darling’s grip, hoisted him up by a leg and threw him down. After a battling it out close to the mat, Davidson finally held Darling down for a winning two-shoulder pin.
“That’s unreal natural agility,” Chapman said. “You can’t teach that.”
“Agility will take away power and strength—I believe that,” he added. “Technique will beat any of them, but if you don’t have technique and have agility you can worm out of almost anything.”