Training for the Academy Shield

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All five Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling Academies are in action and preparing for the big night on Friday November 21st when the Academy Shield will be up for grabs at Kendal Rugby Club.

Carlisle Wrestling Academy 1909A hundred years ago Academy Wrestling was an important part of the weekly entertainment in Carlisle when there was wrestling each Saturday night at Mary Street on a carpet. At a special match between the academies of Carlisle and Newcastle in 1908, my Uncle Geordie was the only Northumbrian winner from thirty-two couples in the 11 stones. The winners were then put in the hat for an individual competition and he survived a broken nose on a ringside spectator's boot, and a tough bout with Nichol of Knightslodge in the semi-final before reaching the final with Davis.

Geordie was exhausted, but luckily for him Davis's favourite chip was the hank, a trip that Geordie was adept at countering with the back-heel. He duly did that to win the first fall, but the second went to Davis with a very clever buttock. According to The Carlisle Journal ,Both men were wary in the third hold, Davis again assaying the hank and failing to turn his man, both falling to the carpet. The umpires disagreeing, the referee decided in favour of Robson, his opponent having touched the carpet first. Robson was loudly cheered on receiving the prize a handsome silver cup.

Robert CarterAfter the Second World War, a great resurgence of wrestling took place, both at the summer sports meetings and indoors with an unprecedented number of new academies. In 1949 there were academies at Gilsland, Carlisle, Kirkbride, Wearhead, Alwinton, Gosforth, Egremont and Bootle, and others being planned for Penrith and Appleby. From then until the late fifties wrestling reached its highest intensity when the Academy Shield was the prize for the winning the Academy League when clubs wrestled each other, home and away.

Then the balloon burst: academies closed, with Kendal Academy the only one left alive in the sixties. On my arrival in Carlisle in 1970, Carlisle Wrestling Club was set up in the Strand Road Sports Centre by Tom Harrington, Ted Dunglinson and me, and inter-academy wrestling resumed. The first fixtures were more like social gatherings with wrestlers from the two Academies casually matched against each other on the mat, and any gaps plugged by spare wrestlers from the home academy.

Then, in 1983, the Academy Shield was retrieved from somebody's cupboard, and put up for competition again under a new set of rules devised by me. These rules reflected the change in the Academies for they valued young wrestlers as much as the seniors, with nine weights from 6st. to 14st and an All Weights section. Each weight was wrestled in a round-robin with one wrestler representing each academy.

In the Good Old Days, matches were won by all sorts of ploys. The home team could match the wrestlers in such a way to gain advantages, and a single brilliant wrestler could wrestle and win several times, whilst less talented clubmates sat and watched. Under the new rules each wrestler could compete only once and always in weight order.

The basic format remains the same, with slight alterations which reflect changes in the academies. Smaller academies such as Minthorpe, were obviously unable to find ten wrestlers to fill all categories, so wrestlers were allowed to compete twice if no-one else was available.

The general population has become heavier, so an extra weight, the 15 stones was added to the list. Female wrestling has become commoner in recent years, and for the first time this year, there will be two categories for females (10st and All Weights)

Five Academies are expected to take part at Kendal on November 21st : Carlisle, Kendal, Milnthorpe, Rothbury and Waberthwaite, a healthy number when compared with the lean times of the sixties and seventies.

Wednesday 12 th November Carlisle Wrestling Club Junior Points in the Gym at Currock House
Wednesday, 19 th November Carlisle Wrestling Club Senior Points

Written by © Roger Robson. Photographs by © Roger Robson, Julian Richardson or Linda Scott (February 10th 2011)

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