Seeds sown 30 years ago will be harvested in Salzbourg, Austria,

FIVE Cumbrian lads will travel to Austria next month to represent the C&W Wrestling Association at the European Championships Espoirs Championships of the Federation de Luttes Celtiques.

The competitors are all aged between 16 and 21 years, and will take on wrestlers from Brittany, Austria, Scotland, Sardinia and Holland in two traditional styles of wrestling: the Breton jacket style called Gouren in their own language, and our own back-hold style. Richard Dixon, John Harrington and Paul Barnes will be competing in the lighter weights between 57 and 74kgs, whilst David Barnes will be wrestling at 90kg, and Russell Housby is clearly in the super-heavyweight class over 90kgs. Their coach, Andrew Carlile, thinks that this will be one of the strongest teams ever from this region to contest the Espoirs Championships. All of the young wrestlers have held a youth championships and are skilled and experienced exponents of Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling. The problem, as always, lies in the Gouren which is much more technical and specialised than their normal style. But both of their coaches, David Atkinson and Andrew Carlile, are experienced exponents of the Breton style, and a new piece of equipment has arrived at the Currock House Gym where the weekly training sessions are held: a crash mat, which allows wrestlers to practice some of the more spectacular throws in safety.

The inclusion of the Barnes brothers from Dearham is especially satisfying to me personally, for it shows how efforts put in years ago can unexpectedly bear fruit. From 1970 to 1972 I taught at Trinity School, Carlisle, and ran a lunchtime wrestling session for pupils in the now defunct Strand Road Sports Centre. One of the best prospects at the time was Michael Barnes who made his mark in boys wrestling but then disappeared from the sport. Any sports coach has to accept that only a tiny proportion of those that he coaches will make the grade, and even fewer will sustain their interest over a long period. Michael Barnes re-appeared years later, not as a wrestler, but as the father of wrestlers, encouraging his sons and willing to transport them round the shows and sports meetings.

Seeds sown 30 years ago will be harvested in Salzbourg, Austria, in three weeks time.

Written by © Roger Robson. Photographs by © Roger Robson, Julian Richardson or Linda Scott (May 4th 2011)

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