UALR wrestling club gets learning experience on the mats
There is no feeling that compares to an athlete seeing their hard work pay off after months of blood, sweat and sacrifice to accomplish a goal. The ups and downs of the process can cause some to feel so frustrated that they throw in the towel and move on.
Junior Eric Yarberry built the UALR Wrestling Club in the fall as a way to continue his passion for wrestling. He said it took a lot of time to recruit new members, train them, and get funding for necessary equipment. He said it is “awesome” to see the club grow like it has.
“When I first got started, I was having trouble getting funded for a wrestling mat, uniforms, you name it,” Yarberry said. “The Arkansas School for the Blind allowed us to practice there, use their mat, and things started to take off after that.”
On Jan. 25, the wrestling club competed for the first time at the Central Baptist College open tournament in Conway, Ark. Yarberry and five other members participated in the event. Evan Schrodel competed in the 149 weight class, Yarberry and Luis Pena in the 157 class, Lance Biggers in 174, Noah Bailey in 197, and Wade Bailey in the 285 class.
Yarberry said the tournament was a learning experience for everyone. He said not competing after so many years caused him to be nervous and lose focus on his technique.
“Even though we lost, we have a lot more to learn and cannot stop training or promoting the club,” Yarberry said. “I learned that I need to work on more defense and speed because you get put in positions and the match is over before you know it.”
He said that one of his competitors showed very good sportsmanship and helped him during the match.
“He helped me to the mat and then he walked on the mat to wrestle me,” Yarberry said. “I didn’t know what to do. At the end of the match, he walked me off the mat, walked me to his coach to shake his hand and it just blew me away.”
Schrodel said he wrestled from 5th-grade through high school. It had been 9 years since he’d wrestled in a competition, but his love for the sport made him want to get back in it. He said in his first match he felt outclassed, not by weight, by skill.
“I felt old and was trying to survive, but that motivates me to improve my technique and training,” Schrodel said. “I learned that all those wrestling practice moves I did in high school such as core and back exercises really helped, but this time around, I know I need to focus on those. I learned it’s a lot harder than it was in high school.”
Although Schrodel lost his first and third match, he won his second against Arkansas Baptist.
“I had a takedown, a couple back moves and a pin,” Schrodel said. “In my third match, I took the guy down with a headlock, rolled him to his back and the oldness kicked in, I got caught and loss.”
“Overall, it’s impressive that Eric started this and we competed for the first time, I would love to see it take off and be a sanctioned sport for the school. The sport does not require a lot of money because a wrestling mat lasts for years, the uniforms are not expensive and everything else is up to the wrestler, it’s not like trying to start a football team,” Schrodel said.
Biggers said it was his first time to compete in a long time. He said he never wrestled when he was young, but participated in martial arts and amateur fighting for a long time.
“These guys have been very helpful because I have not grappled before and I know I got a lot of work to do because I’m still kind of out of shape,” Biggers said. “I sprained my ankle in my match and defending a takedown at that point became difficult, and at my height, I think I should be a few weight classes lower.”
“It was good for me to watch other wrestlers, see new techniques, and learn what I can incorporate next time I can wrestle,” he said.
Luis Pena, Noah and Wade Bailey were unavailable to comment on their participation in the tournament, but Yarberry said Noah placed fifth overall.
Yarberry said he is currently working on finding another open tournament to participate. He said it has to be an open tournament, since they are just a club. Their matches can be found on YouTube at UALRWrestling.