A new wrestling academy met for the first time this week

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(This photo of Ted Hodgson at Rothbury Mart, captures the fun for youngsters wrestling on mats, indoors)

A new wrestling academy met for the first time this week, when eighteen young wrestlers turned up at Haltwhistle Leisure Centre on Monday evening. The main man behind the development is Alan Walton, an ex-champion who still wrestles occasionally. On the death of his son, Chris, a brilliant youth wrestler, Alan found that lots of local lads expressed interest in taking up the sport and the new venture is a direct result.

With no qualified coaches in the area, the initial training will come from some of the Carlisle coaches who are firmly behind the project. In addition, David Atkinson, another excellent coach, has returned to Cumbria from Bristol and has expressed support. The new academy meets every Monday from 6.30 to 8pm.

Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling has moved a long way from the dark days of the 1960s when only Kendal Academy kept up its programme of winter training and internal points competitions. There are now six academies which cover a wide area of Northern England .

Far to the West of Cumbria is Waberthwaite Academy which meets in the village hall each Tuesday from 7 to 8.30pm. The leader, Tom Porter, is struggling with ill health at the moment, but has found two excellent young helpers in the shape of Andrew Woodend and Ashleigh Killip, who are wrestling with the youngsters and bringing them on nicely. Tom particularly commends the impact Alan Jones had on the lads last year when he took a few master-classes to help them with their Basic Coaching Certificate.

The wrestling world will be pleased to hear that The pies are organised. Waberthwaite plays host to the Academy Shield Competition on December 5th , and is famous for its hospitality.

Kendal Academy has restructured significantly this year. They still meet in the South Lakes Leisure Centre but on a Monday night in a bid to be more popular with Senior wrestlers. In previous years all ages were mixed throughout the evening, but now the younger wrestlers up to the age of 11 or 12 get John Wilson's undivided attention from 7 to 8pm. Then the mats are cleared and the older wrestlers take over until 9pm.

Nearby Milnthorpe Academy never has ambitions for big numbers, but it fulfils an important role in bringing out wrestlers in its low-key way from the local villages. The coach, David Parsons, commented on how well William Hayhurst and Stuart Mason are training together. For the first time, too, girls have been taking part in the sessions which are held in the Milnthorpe Junior Football Club Pavilion each Thursday from 6.45 to 8.15pm.

The other, longer-established Northumbrian wrestling club at Rothbury has existed long enough to begin losing some of the wrestlers who showed promise in the past. The likes of Nathan Birdsall and Ross Wilkinson are now at university, and that means that training partners for Andrew Ord and Jack Hale are lacking. The positive side of this is that the club has already launched some excellent wrestlers good enough to win championships, and they also have more youngsters than ever before. Twenty little-uns turn up for the first session at 6.30 for an hour on the mats in the hall of Rothbury Middle School each Wednesday, then the older and bigger lads take over.

Finally, Carlisle Wrestling Club serves a huge tract of country with wrestlers travelling from West Cumbria and Northumberland to benefit from the expert tuition of Tom Harrington, Alan Jones, and Andrew Carlile in the Gym at Currock House each Wednesday. Youngsters start at 7.45pm and the older and heavier wrestlers take over at 9pm. A Points Competition for Juniors will take place on the second Wednesday of each month. The Senior wrestlers compete in their Points Competition on the third Wednesday of the month.

I wonder if any young wrestler is keen enough to try out all the academies, for it would be possible to visit all six in a ten day period.


Saturday, 24th Oct - 2pm Buttermere Show U12/U15/U18/12 ½ /AW

Friday, 6th November - The Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling Association Presentation Dinner, The Auctioneer, Carlisle (Tickets from Board Members)

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

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