An up and coming generation of Wallowa County wrestlers is currently in the works thanks to the coaches and kids of the North East Oregon Wrestling Club.
NEOWC is trying to get the wrestling program going for the younger kids that will eventually feed into the middle schools and high schools in the county. "We have 45 kids out right now from age five through 14," said co-ordinator and coach Gary Mabin. "I'm really excited about the turnout; we really didn't know what to expect," he said. A key point is that not only did 45 kids turn out, but they have stayed out. Mabin along with coaches Lon Andrade, Pete Beaudoin and Chad Nash have their hands full with the rambunctious youth. "At this point we are just basically having fun. Later on in the years to come, hopefully, we can start sooner and get more competitive," he said. "With five year olds you are just interested in keeping them busy."
The club is scheduled to wrestle at three different tournaments starting with Pendleton last weekend, La Grande and Hermiston. NEOWC started their the program at the end of January but had hoped to started in November. Due to organizational problems they didn't. There are tournaments being held across the state from November through April. "You can wrestle all the time if you want to. Some kids in some clubs wrestle 50-60 matches in a season," Mabin said. The kids are primarily from Enterprise and Joseph and were combined to make one team that works out one day at Joseph and one at Enterprise. Purple and black was selected by Mabin as the team colors. "We didn't want to have blue and gold or red and black so we took something that I like," he said.
Teaching sportmanship is key. "There are rules that the kids have to wrestle by and we stay within those rules. We are primarily interested in having the kids have fun. They're not that competitive right now," Mabin said.