Matt Fleming, left, grapples with Frederic Minton of Hoke County. Fleming came from Houston to attend the wrestling camp at St. Andrews. Corbin Ensminger | The Laurinburg Exchange.
The wrestlers visiting St. Andrews for the annual camp had the chance to learn from a legendary fighter on Tuesday. Gray Simons, one of the all-time greats of college wrestling, was on campus to share his knowledge of the sport with the approximately 25 campers in the SAU physical education center.
The camp, made up of middle and high school wrestlers, has been going on since Sunday evening. SAU head wrestling coach Joe Baranik said the campers run in the morning, wrestle in the afternoon and finish the day in the pool.
Simons, a two-time Olympian and seven-time collegiate national champion, was the guest coach for Tuesday. Simons sat in a folding chair a few inches from the mats and watched as the wrestlers practiced the techniques they had just gone over, periodically standing up and gathering the group together to show them a certain hold or counter again, or start working on a new move.
Simons, 73, has been helping out at SAU’s camp for the last several years. Baranik worked as an assistant coach for Simons at Old Dominion for three years.
Simons said he doesn’t get out on the mat as much anymore, but he enjoys coaching because while he’s passing on information to the next generation of wrestlers, he’s learning new things as well.
“Whenever I get the urge to get back out there and wrestle, I lie down until that feeling goes away,” Simons said, laughing. “It (coaching) depends on the individual wrestlers and how they’re picking it up. If you’re working with a kid and they don’t get it, you learn how to be a better teacher. I’m still evolving. You have to innovate your teaching. It’s fun.”
“Wrestling is all about situations,” Simons said. “I’ve been teaching them how to react in each situation. I teach the hold, then the counter and then the counter’s counter.”
Matt Lynch is the wrestling coach at Gray’s Creek High School in Hope Mills, N.C and one of the coaches for the SAU camp. In addition to coaching at the camp, he also brings several wrestlers from his own team to participate. Lynch said this year he had four wrestlers make the trip down, and he has always seen an improvement in the past from those who participated.
“They always get better. It’s like putting money in the bank,” Lynch said. “It’s one of those things where the more reps they get the better.”
Lynch said that when he learned to wrestle, his coach based a lot of their technique off of Simons’ style.
“Simons was my coach’s idol and they coach a lot of the same stuff. For me this fits like a glove,” Lynch said of the camp.
Baranik said wrestlers have come from all across the area to attend this camp, including one from Myrtle Beach and one from all the way in Texas. Matt Fleming is a rising senior at his high school outside of Houston. He said he found out about the camp online and got in touch with Baranik. Fleming said he usually attends UNC’s summer camp, but he has had a better experience at SAU.
“I like this one a lot better. It’s a smaller group so you get a lot more one-on-one time with the coaches,” Fleming said. He said UNC’s camp usually had around 200 participants.
Fleming said he likes to attend camps in North Carolina because the competition he faces here is stiffer than in Texas.
“Everything’s a lot different than Texas. It’s a lot tighter and more organized here,” he said.