Evans and DuCharme mold young wrestling teams


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Wrestling is an individual sport, one grappler on the mat against another.

But it's a team sport, too.

High-school wrestling teams travel from all over the country to Iowa City to attend the team competition camp, staffed and coached by the wrestling program. Current Hawkeye grapplers team up with full high-school squads to help the young athletes grow not just as individuals but also as teams.

Mike Evans, who started every match during the 2011-12 season at 165 pounds, and Joe DuCharme were assigned to work with the same high school. They use their experience from the Hawkeye squad to make wrestling more of a team sport for the youngsters.

"When the kids come here with a full team, they're not only building as individuals, they build as a team, too," Evans said. "Everyone on the team is learning the same thing, so everyone is improving in the same ways. It's a team environment, just like the [Iowa] team has."

The wrestling program offers four individual camps: The takedowns and escapes camp and technique camp focus on drilling and learning new moves, and the intensive and elite camps are based on hard workouts to build strength and endurance.

The team-competition camp helps high-school wrestling teams thrive in a competitive environment. High schools are pitted against each other and conduct full 14-weight duals meet.

"I could see it be more beneficial coming to a wrestling camp as an individual, because who are you going to rely on? Yourself," Evans said. "But if you come as a team, you get that team building, you get the team unity, you get a stronger bond. That's really important in wrestling, to have a strong bond between your team."

The high-schools teams travel with their coaches. Evans and DuCharme work side by side with the high-school leaders to personalize workouts and training strategies to the needs of each team.

It's more difficult for the Hawkeye grapplers to coach other coaches, but it's beneficial.

"The coaches talk to us and tell us what they want," DuCharme said. "We coach the problems we see ourselves, too, but we always work on what the coach wants for his kids. The college guys who are coaching have to balance everything."

The training sessions are important, but where the benefit truly lies is when the schools are set against each other to perform in a dual meet, scored just as it would be in high-school competition.

There's one match happening at once. Twenty six other wrestlers, plus coaches from both teams, are watching a one-on-one battle.

It gets exciting.

"The kids know each other because they're on a team, so they're all spurring each other on to win the dual," Hawkeye associate head coach Terry Brands said. "It creates energy, because you have one-on-one wrestling, combative wrestling."

DuCharme, who attended a team-competition camp in Colorado under Brands when he was in high school, said it was one of the most influential training experiences he had as a young wrestler.

He said the excitement is beneficial not just for team building while at the camp, it also helps the wrestlers thrive individually. Just as the Hawkeye wrestlers compete better when Carver-Hawkeye Arena is full, he notices that the youngsters' skills increase when they're put in an intense competitive environment.

"You see a kid go in there and get a pin or a cool move, and the team really gets into it and spikes the energy," DuCharme said. "The momentum gets going. Everyone is hooting and hollering, and it's a lot of fun. I think that helps them prepare for competition because it's a real dual. That's what I focus on when I'm coaching, making it seem like a real competition."

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