Youth wrestling team trains hard, makes history

"Lots of wrestlers think 'more is better,' but they need to listen to their bodies and communicate with us."

Legends of Gold Wrestling group photo

A small-town youth wrestling team that recently won an international tournament in Europe credits Sanford Health coaches with some of its success.

The Legends of Gold International Development Academy (LOG IDA) in Beresford, South Dakota, made history earlier this spring, becoming the first U.S. team to win the Netherlands’ Easter Wrestling Tournament in its 48-year history. The LOG program sent 81 wrestlers and parents overseas for the club’s first-ever international tournament. Wrestlers of all ages and skill levels were invited to compete.

Legends of Gold’s IDA, which opened in January 2017, is made up of athletes from as young as fifth grade up to high school seniors who live on campus year-round, training in freestyle, Greco and folkstyle wrestling. LOG also trains two senior-level wrestlers, 2016 Olympian Jesse Thielke and South Dakota State University all-time Division I win leader and four time NCAA qualifier Cody Pack. The club offers wrestlers individualized training, summer camps, workouts with national coaches and the opportunity to train at Olympic training centers.

Bigger, better, stronger

Along with its training in Beresford, the team regularly works out at Sanford POWER in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with strength and conditioning specialist Brad Rilling. Terry Pack, who runs Legends of Gold and is Cody Pack’s father, attributes a large part of his team’s success to that relationship.

“What POWER has helped us to do for athletes is nothing short of amazing. The full-time guys killed it,” Terry Pack said. “I can see a huge difference in our kids’ strength and do exercises that a lot of people don’t do.”

During season, which runs from November through February, LOA wrestlers train two days a week with Rilling, focusing on power development, strength training and injury reduction. The group emphasizes posterior chain training and shoulder strengthening to avoid back and shoulder injuries. Rilling said the key to preventing injury is having full and balanced body strength and, more importantly, to avoid overtraining.

“A wrestler’s mentality is typically ‘grind, grind, grind,’ so they don’t take time to recover or rest and that’s when you get your injuries,” Rilling said. “Wrestling is already a physical sport, and when you add overtraining, dieting and cutting weight, that takes a toll on the body if you don’t do it in a smart way.”

In addition to strength and conditioning, LOA athletes also have access to Sanford Health’s sports nutritionists and physical therapists to educate them on safe ways to cut weight more efficiently and keep their bodies healthy. However, Rilling suggests that younger wrestlers need to focus more on taking care of themselves, getting stronger and becoming better skilled rather than cutting weight, training too hard or worrying about how they’re placing.

“A lot of these guys are conditioning for long periods of time for a six-minute match, and they’re not training the right energy systems,” Rilling said. “Lots of wrestlers think ‘more is better,’ but they need to listen to their bodies and communicate with us.”

Teamwork

Programs like POWER are not only beneficial to athletes but also to coaches. LOG’s Terry Pack found that POWER alleviates some of the pressures and duties of coaching.

“We can focus on the technique and programming on our side and work on that more exclusively because we know Sanford has our back and is making sure our kids are conditioned, strong and healed,” he said.

Terry Pack and Rilling agree that combining LOG’s skill development with POWER’s strength and conditioning offers young wrestlers the total package. Pack is especially grateful for the actions Rilling and other POWER coaches take to properly train athletes in the community and keep them as healthy as possible.

“People don’t always see the POWER piece of Sanford. They see health care and think of doctors and surgeons right away, but I don’t think people realize how important Sanford POWER guys are to the community of athletes, especially in injury prevention,” Terry Pack said. “I do want to say ‘thank you’ for what those guys do in the community.”

Posted In News, Orthopedics

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