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After years of going to the mat, all the effort, persistence and hard work has paid off in a major win – Lake Travis High School is adding wrestling to its slate of sports for the 2013-14 season.

Wrestling was only available to kids at the club level up until now in Lake Travis, but wrestlers could not continue to compete with the club after the age of 15. Now, for the first time LTHS will have a full-fledged wrestling program for them to continue on with, and for newcomers to experience as well.

Gary Briley, Lake Travis director of extracurricular programs, said there was an apparent need – and desire – to get wrestling as a program at the high school, and now it’s just a matter of finding a coach and getting the program up and running.

“I’ve already contacted the UIL to see the process and procedures, and we notified them we want to have a wrestling program,” Briley said. “It’s really good for the kids.”

All that’s left to get the sport into the high school is filling out the appropriate paperwork with the UIL. As far as finding a coach, a teaching position will need to open up or be created prior to the 2013-14 school year as any coach coming into the school has to be certified to teach, and Briley said that’s all but done as positions normally open up in the springtime.

“I’ve been doing this 33 years, and there’s never been a situation where we didn’t have an opening,” he said. “We’ve talked about [adding wrestling] several times in the past few years, but we’ve run into budgetary situations with the state budget and all that … Our [school] board is very generous to us. When they see something that will enhance kids and their personal life and future, they usually give it to us.”

At a meeting in late December, Lake Travis school district superintendent Brad Lancaster said it has already been approved by school administration and is a “done deal.”

From the ground-up

A group of coaches, fans and athletes have spearheaded the efforts to get wrestling into the high school.

As the sport was only offered at the club level in the past, the Lake Travis Youth Wrestling Club (laketraviswrestling.com) has been at the forefront after coming onto the scene six years ago thanks to the efforts of Tom and Annette Tierney, co-owners of the club, and Paul and Jeanne Beavers.

Kids participating in the sport could only stay competitive through the age of 15, and they had to be 15 on Sept. 1 to meet the criteria. Now, wrestlers such as Noah Eledge, a 16-year-old sophomore at LTHS, will get to continue on the path of wrestling at the high school level whereas in the past he would have very limited or no options. Eledge started wrestling in California when he was 6 and moved to the area about five years later. Ever since then, he’s been hopeful the sport would be there at the high school level when he had to move on.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Eledge said. “I’m pretty pumped now – my last two years of high school I get to do what my dream was … I think it’s going to mean a lot to these kids to have something to look up to and something to go to when we have school meets. They’ll get to come watch and learn from the bigger guys.”

The Tierney’s son, Colin, is 15 and a freshman at LTHS and would have one more year left at the club level, but chances are he’ll go to the high school level instead next season.

The competitors, looking ahead to getting on the high school stage, are ready to take on likely district opponents such as Westlake and Bowie, who have had sustained program success in wrestling. Eledge said the Lake Travis wrestlers are confident having competed against some of those kids at the club level in previous years.

Going forward

Briley actually wrestled and played football while in college, and many coaches look at the tandem of sports as highly beneficial for the student-athlete. At Westlake High School, wrestling coach Patrick O’Harra said the relationship with the football coaching staff has been reciprocal and symbiotic as the competitive nature of the two sports overlap and the conditioning involved helps round out their overall abilities.

“We had offseason intramural wrestling and several of us got into that program,” said Briley of his college experience. “Man, it was great for the football players especially. I think you’ve got to learn how to compete at a high level, but do it several times throughout the phase of the year if you’re going to stay on your high edge. You learn leverage, quickness, cardio and muscular conditioning; it’s the oldest sport known to man probably. I’m sure they were wrestling over meat in a cave somewhere.”

Lake Travis is looking to have wrestling at all levels from the get-go to compete at a high level in Class 5A as soon as possible, Briley said.

Lake Travis went up a classification from 4A to 5A for the 2012-13 school and sports year, prompting some added hope.

Annette Tierney, club manager for LT Youth Wrestling, said large numbers of intrigued potential athletes would come to initial meetings with interest, but that would drop off once they learned it was only offered as a club sport.

“We were really optimistic when we turned into a 5A high school that they would offer all the UIL sanctioned sports,” she said. “The administration saw the interest in the sport and also the fact that now we’re a 5A school, we need to offer additional sports. We all agree this is just an awesome opportunity for the area.”

Briley concurred that interest in wrestling is reaching new highs in the area, and he anticipates that being reflected when it’s time to hit the mats next season.

“If you build it, they will come,” he said with a laugh.

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