Five area youth wrestling teams hit the mats Saturday morning Feb. 19 at Skaneateles High School during the third annual Skaneateles Youth Wrestling Tournament.
Peewee wrestlers from Skaneateles, Marcellus, Onondaga, West Genesee and Port Byron school districts competed in various weight classes throughout the morning tournament while parents and coaches filled the gymnasium with cheers and sideline instruction.
Coach Joe Brillo said the youth program in Skaneateles is a feeder program for the modified, junior varsity and varsity wrestling programs.
"It's more to keep the kids involved. We want them to enjoy it," Brillo said.
If they enjoy it, the kids are more likely to think about being involved in the more advanced programs later in their school years.
According to Brillo, the Skaneateles program has 40 children this season, from kindergarten through sixth grade. The annual February mini-tournament provides experience for the youngsters, whereas an end-of-year tournament is more of a formal competition.
Brillo said the youth program has seen an approximate 80 percent follow-through rate, with wrestlers moving on to the modified program and beyond.
The program gives young grapplers exposure to the sport while teaching them about sportsmanship and real competition experience, said parent Lane Duger.
"Joe Brillo's program is phenomenal. He teaches all the right stuff," he said.
Not only has he taught the sport, he's remained calm and patient with his students, ultimately taking the pressure to win off them so the focus is shifted to learning how to play the game.
"Very few people can do what he's done," Lane Duger said.
Brillo has produced a number of champions throughout his tenure with the youth program, one of them being Lane Duger's son, Hunter.
Ten-year-old Hunter Duger has been on a winning streak since he joined the program approximately five years ago.
The young matman remains undefeated and has gone on to the Central New York Championship every year. He's also won a statewide wrestling tournament, he said.
Wrestling isn't all about the pins for the grappler. It's about being and staying physically fit.
"[I wrestle] to stay healthy," Hunter Duger said matter-of-factly, adding he plans to stick with the sport through his remaining school years.