Wrestling camp serves as Commonwealth Games tune-up for participants
At its 14th annual summer camp, held June 26-29 in the LaHaye Multipurpose Center, members of Liberty University’s men’s wrestling team and coaching staff provided on-mat instruction for more than 35 male and female wrestlers between 8 and 19 years old.
“Compared to last year, when COVID really brought our numbers down and kind of brought the environment down, this year it went very smoothly,” Flames Graduate Assistant Chad Cantrell said. “We had a large turnout, and we really taught them a lot about wrestling and a lot about the Lord.”
“That’s one of the highlights for me as a coach,” Liberty Assistant Coach Josh McIlhenny added. “It’s great to see our guys step into a coaching role as well as they get to work with kids in the area.”
Flames Head Coach Jesse Castro said the increased participation numbers are encouraging, and he is optimistic that they will continue to rise.
“The opportunity to grow our camp is always there, so we are looking to grow this thing and offer Central Virginia and Virginia at-large an opportunity to be on campus,” he said.
Campers get a taste of on-campus life as a student-athlete, as they can use its state-of-the-art recreational, residential, and dining facilities.
“They have an opportunity to stay in the (Residential Commons II) dorms and to see the facilities at the LaHaye (Recreation & Fitness) Center,” Castro said. “So, it’s a great recruiting opportunity and good exposure for the school.”
“It’s an awesome opportunity to host the Commonwealth Games because a lot of the guys that are in the Games are our campers,” McIlhenny said. “A lot of them are coming up to me and asking me, ‘Hey, Coach, can you be in my corner?’ That is super rewarding for me because it makes me feel like I had an impact on them throughout the week. It’s a great addition, a great end-piece to camp, and the guys who come to camp definitely have an advantage at the Commonwealth Games, just because they’ve been wrestling all week and learning new things.”
As much as seeing wrestlers from the camp place in that tournament was a positive takeaway for the wrestlers, having the opportunity to lead them into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ was even more rewarding for Liberty’s camp staff.
“Primarily, the most exciting thing that occurred this week is that some individuals from the camp accepted Christ as their personal Savior … and I think every counselor and clinician that is involved in the camp would certainly say that is the highlight,” Castro said.
Video by Kylee Lilge and Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media