COVENTRY–Wrestling season is underway for the Northeast Kingdom Pythons youth wrestling program. The team consists of kids age eleven and younger, and is currently under the tutelage of long time Python member Richie Roberts.
"I have been with the program since 1984. I was helping coach and in 1987 I took it over," said the twenty-eight year veteran.
The kids meet multiple times a week at the Coventry Town Hall and although they have not had a meet yet this season, the older kids are currently preparing for the New England qualifiers on February 12th while the youngsters are busy learning the basics.
"The meet is for fifth and sixth and third and fourth (graders) only. The top three go down to the New England's in Plymouth, NH where it will be a twenty-five man bracket," said Roberts.
The kids are put through a variety of drills, learning everything from take-downs, to holds, and some thing that is not just wrestling related; discipline.
"You definitely need a lot of self control with your anger. Discipline (is focused on), and when you get up into the upper levels in high school you are going to need to work on your grades as well."
The Python kids are not at that level yet, but Roberts plans on starting a junior high program that will give the kids a place to continue the developmental process en-route to the high school program.
The team has a healthy combination of proven wrestlers as well as first timers, and the older kids have had some great success early in their careers.
"Josh Roberts has been here since he was in kindergarten and he is a four time state champion, and at one point was a three time undefeated champ.
"Logan and Jesse Gerrow have been doing really well. Logan took second place in states last year.
"The Sylvester brothers have been here for three years, and this will be their first time going to the qualifiers and I can not wait to see how they will do."
One of the things that drew Roberts to the sport was its' ability to be both an individual and a team sport. While yes you are part of a team, you and you alone are responsible for your performance. You can not blame someone else for something like not getting you the ball for the wide open shot. It is strictly up to the individual to pull their own weight in competition.
The kids that he coaches have a great attitude towards the sport and you can see how much they enjoy wrestling when you watch them practice.
"My favorite parts of wrestling are the takedowns, the tournaments, and you get to do a lot of drilling and it gets you fired up," said Logan Sylvester.
"I like everything about wrestling," said state champion Josh Roberts, "I also like to see more and more kids come and improve the sport."
Both kids have a favorite wrestler, Roberts is a John Cena fan, while Sylvester is in former Olympic champ Kurt Angle's camp.
The kids, speaking beyond their years, have great respect for the coaching staff and know that they would not be where they are with out them.
Said Sylvester, "They are a big help because they teach us the moves, and with out them, we wouldn't know any of the moves."
"They help me a lot. They get me ready and we wouldn't know half of what we know if it wasn't for our coaches," echoed Roberts.
The elder Roberts is still passionate about the sport he discovered long ago and the start of each new season is pure joy.
"I look forward to coming here every single practice and seeing the little ones having a blast. I think it is going to be a really good year, we have seventeen kids, and I look forward to the start of the regular season in March."
If you are interested in the becoming involved with the Python program, the team usually practices on Mondays, Tuesdays, and or Fridays, so give the Coventry Town Hall a call just to make sure that they are going be there that night and come see what a great job Roberts and his staff are doing with the program.