By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Spend just a few minutes talking wrestling with Bill Campbell and his passion for the sport is readily evident. Campbell would love nothing more than for that passion to spread that passion to Ashtabula County’s grapplers.
In attempting just that, Campbell has enlisted Premier Wrestling, which features Ohio State coach Tom Ryan. Ryan, with the help of Nick Corey, will run a camp for grapplers from kindergarten to 12th grade on May 11 at Pymatuning Valley.
“They’ve been doing this for about three or four months,” Campbell said. “They were looking to fill a date for March 17. I’m friends with the Stiebers, (the family of OSU 133-pound national champion Logan Stieber). Promoting Ashtabula County wrestling is our goal.
“It didn’t happen for March 17. But Nick, who runs the camps for Tom Ryan, got me on the phone and said Tom was intrigued about coming to a small town.”
The camp will cost $45 per camper. Doors will open at 9 a.m. with the camp running from 10 to 3 p.m. Afterward, Ryan will conduct a meet and greet at which he will talk wrestlers, pose for pictures and sign autographs. Campers can find registration forms on yappiwrestling.com or register the morning of the event.
The meet and greet is free and open to any all wrestling fans.
“(Ryan) called and I explained who I was and what I came from,” Campbell said. “I said I really wanted to promote wrestling in our school and our community and they were totally on board with it.”
There’s a reason Campbell feels it is so important to host the camp and, specifically, to have Ryan on hand.
“Ashtabula County has not had a state champ since 1984,” he said. “We’re the biggest county in the state and it’s time to be recognized with a state champ, whether it’s Division I, Division II or Division III doesn’t matter. We need it.”
Ryan is important because of his passion and knowledge.
“I want to motivate the young kids to stay with it and rejuvenate the high school kids,” Campbell said. “Let’s be realistic. How many boys from our area go to college on scholarships in football, basketball or baseball? (Getting a scholarship in wrestling) lessen the burden on parents trying to pay for a college education.
“I want to motivate the young wrestlers to use the sport to get an education.”
Ryan has quite a history. Before taking over the Buckeyes, he was the head coach at Hofstra. While there, his 5-year-old son, Teague, passed away from a heart stoppage from being startled. Ryan did CPR on the young boy for 14 minutes while waiting for an ambulance.
After moving to Columbus, Ryan was named 2009 NCAA Division I Coach of the Year.
Ryan will address his past as well as talk about what it takes to be a Division I wrestler.
“He will tell stories that brought him through his life and wrestling,” Campbell said. “
Ryan and Corey will take the lead when it comes to the camp.
“I want them to come in and teach,” Campbell said. “I want the kids to get a feel for what Division I wrestling is like.”
The camp will should be a can’t-miss event for area wrestlers.
“I think any wrestler in high school, junior high or the youth ranks who wants to be on the podium at state should take advantage of anything and everything we do in the county to help them get better, whether it be open mats or camps and clinics.”
Campbell is not simply talking about the grapplers in the Andover area. He is talking about all kids from all schools.
“It’s not about helping my club and only my club,” Campbell said. “If a kid is passionate about the sport and wants to get better, I want to do everything I can to help him get better.
“I want every kid who comes to feel the vibe of what Tom Ryan brings to the table. I hope they all walk out of there wanting to be the state champion.
Part of the reason wrestling should appeal to youngsters is that there is a weight class for every type of athlete. Also, a wrestler does not have to be a great athlete to be great at the sport.
“Tom will sit the wrestlers down and address them as well as the parents in the stands,” Campbell said. “One of the first things he will hit on is that they don’t have to be a great athlete to be great at wrestling. Ken Chertow has long said that with hard work, dreams come true. That starts with the parents.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.