100 years ago, wrestlers came from two main groups: pitmen and farm workers

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A hundred years ago, wrestlers came from two main groups: pitmen and farm workers. The colliers of West Cumberland, Weardale in County Durham, and the Northumberland coalfield were as hard as the rock they hewed, with powerful shoulders from the use of pick and shovel in confined spaces. The farm workers were also well exercised in their daily work, handling sheep and using hayfork, muck-hack and shovel on a regular basis.

Young Farmers Club Wrestling

The end of the deep mines meant the end of the miners, so obviously that ready supply of wrestling talent has been long defunct. Fortunately, the rural connection continues, and that is made clear each year, when both the Northern and Southern Federations of Young Farmers' Clubs in Cumbria have wrestling as an important section of their Field Days.

At each Field Day, recognised wrestlers who have spent years acquiring their skills usually dominate the competitions, but there is always a cohort of novice wrestlers, who push them all the way, and sometimes produce shock results.

The wrestling academies at Carlisle and Kendal have had wrestling sessions with Young Farmers' Clubs in the past weeks: last Friday Raughtonhead YFC were put through their paces in the gym at Currock House by the Carlisle coaches, Tom Harrington and Alan Jones. In the south of the county John Wilson, the Kendal coach, took the academy's wrestling mats to Grayrigg village hall for a training session for Grayrigg YFC and Crook YFC. He said that there were some right handy young men and they had a night of non-stop wrestling.

These sessions have several benefits. They provide a YFC with a lively activity night; help the club to pick out the wrestling talent for the Field Day competitions; and hone the wrestling skills of the participants. From the academies' perspective, such sessions are ideal for finding new wrestling talent and gaining new members.

Unknown fully-fledged wrestlers no longer stream down from the Pennines and Lakeland valleys to compete at the likes of Grasmere. The future health of our local wrestling lies in the hands of our wrestling academies, and a symbiotic link with Young Farmers Clubs is no bad thing.


Wednesday, 11th February Carlisle Wrestling Club Third Junior Points Night.

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

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