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Grass-roots approach could yield big dividends for Tigers

Tuesday, December 3, 2002

Josh Crowell is head coach of the Central Tigers wrestling team.

His approach is more like that of a farmer with an orange thumb.

For the past three years, Crowell has diligently and patiently distributed seeds and fertilized the ground around Central's varsity wrestling team, which has had just one winning dual season in more than a decade.

He started the PeeWee Wrestling League three years ago for athletes in grades 1 through 6 and has seen the numbers grow to over 100, triple the number of the first year.

He pushed for a junior high wrestling program and that has also sprouted. Now 28 seventh- and eighth-graders practice under coach Chris Moore, a former state-qualifying wrestler at Central.

A Cape Girardeau AAU/USA traveling wrestling team was formed this year for more serious youth wrestlers. Now 10 wrestlers are on the traveling squad with more to join after the conclusion of the junior-high season.

"What Josh has done is pushed for a couple new programs that will really help him out," Moore said.

Crowell, beginning his fourth year at Central, hopes the grass-root approach will soon yield a consistent, quality crop of wrestlers at Central.

He says he's especially happy with the junior high program, something many schools with strong wrestling programs have possessed for years.

"That's really where we've been behind, because we've never had that," Crowell said. "Now that we have that, I think you'll see a definite improvement."

The high school and junior high programs have been coordinated to incorporate the same warmups, same drills and same techniques.

"It's good to see this move," said Moore, who teaches seventh-grade health and physical education. "They've always offered junior=high football and junior=high basketball. Now they're offering wrestling and there's a lot of interest."

The logistics worked out well with the move to the new high school. The varsity and junior varsity are honing their skills in an expanded practice room while the junior high inherited the old facility, which has been packed wall to wall.

"I think within two years the freshmen numbers will be outstanding," Moore said.

Not that those numbers are hurting this year. While Central's overall numbers dropped this year to 20, seven are freshmen, the most Crowell has had.

"I've already told them all that I'm looking to build the future team around them," Crowell said.

The freshman class should be reinforced with future crops.

While the future looks bright, Crowell says he's excited about this year.

"Things are heading in the right direction," he said. "The first few weeks we've had the most intensity since I've been here."

The Tigers return nine wrestlers from last year's 4-6 team that lost just two seniors from its starting lineup.

Leading the cast is senior state qualifier Trever Duncan (160).

"He'll definitely going to be one of our standouts this year," Crowell said.

After having to forfeit at some weights last season, the Tigers may still have a couple of openings in their lineup.

"I hate having that," admitted Crowell, who opts not to throw freshmen into the varsity fray and risk a bad experience.

The wrestling seeds he's planted still have not grown over the bare spots.

"It's still going to be down the road," Crowell said. "Quite honestly, when I took over I set up a 10-year plan. And I'm still following that now. I'm on track for everything except the numbers this year I thought would be a little higher. But hey, with quality being up -- I'd much rather take quality over quantity."

It may not be much longer before this farmer has both.

jbreer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 124


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