Camp includes incoming recruits, taught by current wrestlers
July 17, 2013 | Lynchburg, Va.
Three recent high school graduates who will wrestle for the Flames starting this fall are among the 50 participants in this week's Liberty University Middle and High School Wrestling Camp, directed by head coach Jesse Castro.
Lightweights Jacob Cunningham of Christiansburg, Va., and Tim Nordan, a state champion from Catoctin, Md., and Matt Reynolds, a 182-pounder from Great Bridge in Chesapeake, Va., will add depth to the Flames' lineup, particularly in the lower weight classes.
"Matt is very technical," Castro said of Reynolds, who placed fourth at the Group AAA state meet this past season. "I'm excited about having him. I'm excited about having the other two, too, because I was so weak down low (last year)."
Additionally, Alex Cox and Marcus Miller, two former campers who are now rising sophomore wrestlers at Liberty, and recent graduates Peter Crawford and Jonathan Perkins, who previously attended the camp, are among the handful of counselors and clinicians serving on Castro's staff.
"It's my second year helping out," said Miller, a graduate of Liberty Christian Academy who placed second as a freshman 157-pounder at the NCWA national championships in Allen, Texas in mid-March. "I came into Liberty kind of knowing most of the wrestlers, but helping out with the camp gave me another perspective of what college would be like and what to look forward to."
Cunningham, a 113-pounder this past season when he competed for 12-time defending VHSL Group AA state champion Christiansburg, is using the week to tune up for his transition to collegiate wrestling.
"I haven't wrestled in a few months, so it's going to get a little rust off of me and see what it's going to be like next year, meet some new wrestlers in the future and get used to campus life," said Cunningham, who started wrestling when he was 5.
This was his first time participating in Liberty's sixth annual camp after attending others in Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia Tech in summers past. "I've wrestled all up and down the East Coast," Cunningham said. "I've always wanted to be able to wrestle in college and it's here for me now."
Cox, who graduated from nearby Jefferson Forest, and Miller have worked closely with Reynolds and his team of wrestlers this week, not only counseling them, but also demonstrating moves on the mat.
"It's pretty intense," Cox said. "It's a lot of hard work, a lot of wrestling. We do technique and mix in a lot of hard drilling with that and after that, we'll do a team dual meet."
"I'm pretty picky about my technique," Miller added. "When I see something not done perfectly technically right, I just have like a bug to go help them."
Camp clinicians including Castro, Messiah College wrestling coach Bryan Brunk, Heritage High School coach Allen Hackmann, and Joe Kemmerer are providing the majority of the instruction, and inspirational words of wisdom.
"The difference between a good wrestler and a driven, passionate, great wrestler is what he does when no one is looking," Brunk told the wrestlers during Tuesday's evening session in the East Campus Volleyball Gym. "What do you do when nobody else is looking?"
Cox said camps like Liberty's help develop wrestlers' mentality and technique as well as their work ethic, adding motivation to stay in condition.
"There's an old saying, ‘Summer wrestlers make winter champions,'" he said. "These people here are putting in the time so they're most likely going to be successful and go to the next level."
Becoming a successful wrestler requires tremendous amounts of physical as well as technical training, to a similar extent that becoming a follower of Christ requires a great deal of chastening and discipline.
At Liberty, the two pursuits go hand-in-hand, as Castro and others have testified at this week's camp.
"Castro was talking about the first night here, ‘This isn't just a wrestling camp, this is a camp to help your soul,'" Cox said. "That's one of our main goals. We're actually more concerned, I would say, about their soul and their personal walk with Christ than how good they are at wrestling. It's our goal to lead them to Christ and make them better wrestlers."
Cox first met Castro when he was recruiting at the Group AA state wrestling tournament in Salem.
"I've always really respected Castro," Cox said. "He's a great coach and man of God and he teaches me the spiritual aspect which I can't get from public schools. That is why I wanted to come here and wrestle for him."
Participating in the camp affirmed his desire to continue his wrestling career for the Flames and helped fuel his Christian faith.
"They taught me a verse in Proverbs (27:17), written on the back of our T-shirts, that said, ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another,'" said Cox, who shared his personal testimony with the campers Monday afternoon in Liberty's Wiseman Wrestling Room. "That was the verse that really stuck out to me. I think that's why I'm a leader today because I want to help sharpen other people and, through Christ and through my wrestling, I hope to teach them how to glorify God."