Biddy Wrestling Growing By Leaps And Bounds At Anthony Wayne

Craig Katafiasz speaks to Anthony Wayne Biddy wrestlers after a practice on Thursday, February 8 at the Antony Wayne wrestling room. MIRROR PHOTO BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER

BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER | MIRROR SPORTS — Like many parents who get their children involved in youth sports, David Friedman was not impressed by much of what he saw.

Programs grinding kids down, parents who put too much value on winning and living through their child, not enough development and understanding.

So when he came to the Anthony Wayne Biddy Wrestling team four years ago, he decided to do something about it. Along with fellow dad Michael Dushane, they decided to do something different.

Rather than using kids to build up the program, they use the program to build better kids.

“As fathers, we didn’t know where to take our kids,” Friedman said. “We thought, ‘OK, if we can show people in the community what wrestling is, we can get a few people.’

“We saw too much burnout. We wanted to create an environment where we teach you wrestling and you actually like the sport. You don’t see that with a lot of youth programs.

“We didn’t know what we were doing. We just stayed positive.”

The proof is in the numbers. Four years ago, 35-40 kids would register for the biddy team and around a dozen would stick it out through the end of the season.

This year, the AW biddy team had 105 kids register, and most of them have stayed throughout the season – and then some.

The program is built for the novice wrestler as well as the experienced, elite wrestler. Practices are broken down for different ages each night, and inside of practice, different skill levels are paired off to ensure an even playing field.

“We’re friendly to the beginner. Our mission is to create a club that caters to the new wrestling family as well as those that have more experience, are elite, want a little more,” Friedman said. 

“We don’t want anyone to come in here and have anyone say, ‘This is a club where they charge you monthly installments and they grind your kid down.”

Fellow dad David Brighton added, “We try to cater to the different levels as best we can. We’re limited on mat time, obviously, but we do a good job of trying to give them different opportunities.”

Brighton won multiple state titles as a wrestler at Bedford High School in Temperance, Mich. His dad is in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as a coach.

Also helping coach the AW biddy team is Craig Katafiasz, a multiple-time state placer at Sylvania Northview High School. There are around 15 coaches, and most of them are former wrestlers and dads themselves.

“There’s no pressure on the kids, but there isn’t a single one of the kids that couldn’t come up to any of the coaches and say, ‘Can you show me this? Can you stick around a little longer?’,” Katafiasz said. 

“There isn’t a coach, barring something else going on, that wouldn’t stick around long enough to satisfy what they needed.”

When Friedman and Dushane officially took over the biddy program, they decided the best way to spread their message was Facebook. Talking to some of the parents, the social media page is what brought them in.

“I just came last year and the big thing was looking at the Facebook page. If you go out there, you get a sense of what the club is all about. It’s about a family, a community. It’s not just about getting that trophy, it’s about the fun you have, the friendships you make,” Brighton said.

The coaches and program might not measure their success in wins and trophies, but they do measure success in other ways. Dan Fournier, another dad associated with the program, said the team will regularly get in trouble at tournaments for having too many kids surrounding the mats, cheering on their teammates.

“It is a fun atmosphere,” Fournier said. “We’ve had so much fun, it’s unbelievable. Sundays at our tournaments, we’re just smiling ear to ear.”

Last weekend brought the Novice State Tourn-ament at the Glass City Center in Toledo. The AW program sent 20 kids to the tournament, which attracted hundreds of wrestlers from around the state.

It served as the last official tournament for the program this year.

“The hardest part about this sport, especially for kids, is the psychology of it,” Friedman said. “There’s so much anxiety when you have to go compete on a mat by yourself when you’re a little kid. 

“Youth sports is so competitive – did you win or lose? Your value isn’t determined as a human on whether you won or lost when you’re 8 years old.

“We don’t care if you win. We don’t care if you never win a match. When you go out there, did you do better than last time?”

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