Nationally know coach runs clinic in town
The Cowboy Mat Club regularly brings in coaches to put on wrestling camps and clinics.
This December is no exception at the club brought in nationally known wrestling coach Cliff Fretwell, who runs Compound Wrestling in Atlanta, Georgia, for a clinic that ran Saturday through Sunday, Dec. 7-8 in the Crook County High School mat room.
"I wasn't a superstar high school wrestler," Fretwell said. "I wrestled just a little time in college, but I've got a love for the sport and I've been around some amazing coaches that have taught me how to coach and how to motivate and inspire and I fell in love with it. I got addicted to helping other people chase their goals and it just keeps me burning to do it."
A chance meeting between Cowboy Mat Club wrestling director Lance Lavey and Fretwell two years ago has led to a relationship that has continued to this day.
Lavey had taken his son to a wrestling camp in Idaho, which Fretwell was running.
Since then the two have built a relationship and this is the second time that Fretwell has come to Prineville.
"I met Lance two years ago, and he said, 'man, I really love the camp,'" Fretwell said. "I said give me a call and set it up anytime, anywhere. He brought me out this summer. It's just good to be around people like that that have a huge vision and a love for the sport and want to share their vision with everybody else. The more that I can be around people like that, the more it energizes me to go back home and do what I'm doing and pass that on to wherever I go next."
Fretwell was in the gym bright and early on Saturday, despite his flight not arriving until just before midnight Friday night.
First thing in the morning Fretwell worked with wrestlers as young as 5. As the day went on, the younger wrestlers finished and older wrestlers filled the mat room.
Sunday was more of the same, with a few of the Crook County High School wrestlers, who had a tournament in Reno that finished late Saturday, also filtering into the room.
Fretwell's coaching style is high energy, and very positive. Shouts of good job, that's perfect, way to go, as well as high fives and other close interaction with the wrestlers was all part of the day.
Fretwell would give instructions for a drill, and then the wrestlers would break into groups of two to practice the skills they had just seen. Fretwell kept a close watch on the drills, walking around the room, and getting hands on with the wrestlers.
"I love it," Fretwell said. "It's one of those things where there are a lot of people that go through their whole lives and never get to do what they love for a living. So, for me to not put my full effort into everything I do every day is disrespectful to the people that helped me get here. That's something that I keep fresh in my mind. I'm human. There's days, like yesterday where travel got to me a little bit, but I had to tell myself, heh, you are flying to Oregon to show kids some wrestling moves and you are getting paid for it. Even if I wasn't getting paid, it's such a good feeling to get around kids that are chasing their dreams and getting better."
Fretwell added that he couldn't do what he does without the support of his wife.
Not only does he put on clinics all over the country, he runs two wrestling facilities in the greater Atlanta area. The larger of the two is a 12,000 square-foot complex that is dedicated solely to wrestling. It contains wrestling mats as well as equipment for strength and agility work.
In addition, Fretwell also runs a sportswear manufacturing company.
During the weekend camp Fretwell focused on fundamentals, attention to detail, and on getting better every day.
"We talk to our kids a lot about growing," he said. "They have got to feel like they are growing because if they only take their competitive results and gauge that on if they are getting better or not, that can be a trap. I think that's a lot of what's wrong with what we are doing in sports, is if I don't win, I'm not getting better. There are so many aspects, so that's why we focus with my kids on growing. Maybe I grew on being a leader today, maybe you grew being a partner today. Maybe you grew work ethic today and maybe you grew being technical today. It's not just I didn't win at practice, so I'm not getting better."
Fretwell added that the things he teaches and learns coaching youth wrestling also carry over into his clothing manufacturing business.
"I take a lot of the things I learn coaching kids and I apply it to running my business," he said. "Because we are all human. We all want praise. We all want to feel like we are contributing. So, it's just a good full circle. And the coaches I get to be around like Lance (Lavey) gives me perspective and teaches me how to teach in a different way. The more people I can get around and converse with the better I get at coaching and leading."
Fretwell was quick to point out that, in today's world, parents often push kids too hard. If athletes don't specialize then they can fall behind and loose opportunities. However, although Fretwell said that it is important to start early so that kids can compete, it's also important that they have fun, and that things are kept in perspective.
"A lot of people consider guys like me as part of the problem," he said. "Sports are getting to be such a privatized thing. So, I own a private training facility. Kids go to their high school or middle school practice and then come to my practice after that and put in twice the work. Guys are seeking out specialized training that is another level than what they are getting in their high school and middle school rooms, or even in their youth USA Wrestling Clubs, but I tell you, it's a balance."
Fretwell said that, with younger wrestlers, he works hard to not push them too hard. He tries to teach basic skills and fundamentals, but make sure that the athlete has fun and comes away with a positive experience.
"I tell parents when they sign up that my goal is to have them excited about coming to practice and excited about coming back when they leave," he said. "Then when they get to middle school or high school and get a little bit more serious, then we can start talking about some more serious goals. But I only get so much time in the room with them and if the parents are on a different page than me and grind them a little too hard or put too much pressure and expectation on them, then that's where you start seeing a lot of competitive stress and that starts getting related to the negative vibe towards the sport."
He added that it is important that parents give their children opportunity, but that it is also important that the parent is supportive and understanding and doesn't push kids too hard or put too much pressure on them. That sports should be fun.
And that is exactly what Fretwell was doing on Saturday and Sunday at CCHS, making sure that kids were enjoying the sport and were getting better.
Saturday, when athletes were given a lunch break, Fretwell had to chase some of them out of the gym, because they wanted to continue to wrestle instead of stopping to eat.
After all, although he has a passion for the sport and wants to help produce high level athletes, he also wants it to be fun.
As a result, despite not having ever been an elite wrestler, Fretwell now has access to many of the top wrestling coaches in the country, as well as knowing a large number of collegiate and Olympic wrestlers.
"I have so many college division I coaches that I can call and discuss wrestling with," Fretwell said. "Usually to be in that fraternity you have to be a world level national champ guy. But they see my love for the sport, and they appreciate it and we have a common bond, so the result from that is me being able to get around the best people in the sport and just feed off of them. Hopefully, I give them a little bit back too. Maybe it's just my energy and a little bit of my perspective, but that's the payoff for me."
Fretwell added that his goal is to become the best coach in the world. Regardless of whether that happens or not, he is continually striving to become a better coach.
"The goal is to be the best coach in the country," he said. "Whether I get there or not, I will be in a pretty cool spot. I just appreciate what Lance and these guys are doing in this community. It takes time and in today's society I think a lot of people don't want to put in the work to see those light bulbs start going off down the road. But the high school program is a product of what they have done for a long consistent time and I have a ton of respect for it. That fires me up to get here and maybe if I'm a little tiny piece of it and I get to watch them through Facebook and watch them online and then see them through college, that's the cool thing."
And during the lunch break, that is exactly what Fretwell was doing, watching video of college wrestlers who he has met through his camps and clinics.
Crook County is already a wrestling powerhouse but bringing in coaches like Fretwell may over time take the program to the next level, and even more recognition and national prominence.
And that is exactly what Fretwell is hoping for.
"Georgia is not a traditional powerhouse wrestling state," he said. "Over the last decade, we have really put ourselves in the running for a top eight team in the country. (Crook County has) got a lot of people that are building a youth program and you have an entire community involved. Kids can be exposed to the sport early on and have a love for it and as long as the coaching staff is keeping that love fostered and they are progressing and growing and put the time in, you will see results. Guys like Lance are doing an amazing job of building it up and getting parents and the community involved. You will see results. It will happen."
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