Youth wrestling club

Youth wrestling coach Kyle Stiffler (right in yellow shirt) talks to local wrestlers during a Thursday practice at a new wrestling club that opened this week in Dothan on Highway 231 North in the Foundation9 Crossfit building behind American Home Place and Ashley Home Furniture near the northside Wal-Mart.

Kyle Stiffler’s goal is to grow amateur youth wrestling in the south, especially in the Wiregrass.

To that end, the owner/coach of the Enterprise Assassins Wrestling Club opened a new wrestling facility in Dothan this past week, matching a gym he holds in Enterprise. The new wrestling club is located in a gray building at 4198 Montgomery Highway north in the Foundation9 Crossfit Building, directly behind America’s Home Place and Ashley Furniture near the northside Wal-Mart.

“Having a club here in Dothan is to grow the youth program to feed into the high schools,” Stiffler said. “Having a gym in Enterprise, the distance for kids to travel (from Dothan) was too far. So if I can come to them, I am able to grow the sport more in the area.”

The Dothan club is open to kids age 3 through high school. It will practice Tuesday and Thursday from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Cost is $70 per month, which typically covers eight to 10 practices a month. Also kids can attend the Enterprise club on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at no charge if they have a Dothan membership. Family rates are available for those who have more than one kid.

“You can really train for five days a week (for $70),” Stiffler said, noting that will mean 20-25 practices a month.

Nine youths, including several Houston Academy wrestlers, were at the Dothan club’s second practice this past Thursday. They were glad to have an in-town facility.

“It is nice,” said Kennan Beaver, who wrestled at 113 pounds this past winter for HA and has been going to the Enterprise club facility since February. “The drive (to Enterprise) is a pain, so it is nice to be able to come here and get work while not in Enterprise. Now, I can get work in at both gyms and get max amount of work time.”

Reilly Harvin, who wrested at 285 pounds at Houston Academy this past year and previously before that at Northview, went to a couple of practices in Enterprise, but couldn’t make more because of the drive to the gym, located right outside the Fort Rucker gate on Fort Rucker Blvd. For those in Dothan, the drive was 30-45 minutes long depending on where they lived.

“It feels pretty good to have one in Dothan,” Harvin said. “It is here in town, so it makes it a lot easier to get to. I can come every Tuesday and Thursday to get better at wrestling and get ready for next season.

“I went a couple of times up there and it was a good experience, but the travel was a problem.”

Beaver was one of the few kids at Tuesday’s opening practice, but he could quickly tell after Thursday’s practice that the word was getting out about the club. He feels participation will continue to increase.

“I like it is growing,” Beaver said. “I can see it is growing in Dothan with more kids. It is going to grow more.”

Amateur wrestling is a relatively new sport in the Wiregrass. Northview High School picked it up three years ago and Enterprise, Houston Academy and Charles Henderson last year.

“One of my goals is to continue to grow it so that more schools in this area pick it up,” Stiffler said. “A long-term goal is to get some of the kids a free education (through wrestling) into college.

“It is a life-learning sport. You will learn how this plays into work ethic. It is big into work ethic. It also shows you that you can push your mind further than you think you can.”

Stiffler began the Enterprise club a year and a half ago with just five kids, but that club eventually grew to reach 50-60 kids. He hopes the Dothan one grows as well. If it does, he will likely split the practice, adding a 4:30-5:30 time slot.

Mike Hedgpeth, an upcoming freshman who just moved this summer to Dale County, was excited to see the Dothan club open. Hedgpeth wrestled the last two years at Fort Collins Middle School in Colorado Springs and finished fifth in the middle school state competition in Colorado at 140 pounds.

“I am glad this club opened here because Alabama is not known for wrestling and I am glad I have a chance to help it grow,” Hedgpeth said. “I will talk to my friends. I hope I can get my friends into it and hopefully create something here.”

Hedgpeth, who lived in Enterprise for six years before moving to Colorado, said he caught the wrestling bug during his first competition. He said he loved the grind of it and the moves, but mostly the brotherhood and bond you create with teammates and others in the sport.

“Wrestling is basically my life,” Hedgpeth said. “Ever since I stepped on the mat and hit my first double leg (takedown) in my first match, I knew this was the sport for me.

“One of my future goals is to go to college or to the Olympics (and wrestle) or to coach wrestling when I get older.”

Beaver and Harvin both said several other Houston Academy teammates were expected to join the club in the next week or so, something they were excited about as they approach their second high school season.

“I am happy,” Beaver said. “We will get better for sure, maybe win some more duals.”

Five Houston Academy wrestlers attended the Appalachian State camp two weeks ago for five days of instruction and competition. The camp was attended by hundreds in more than 12 states.

“The Appalachian State camp was a big eye-opener into the sport and seeing how college wrestlers practice and drill,” Harvin said.

Beaver added, “There was a lot more learning to it. There were a lot more kids up north (at it) and sometimes they know a little better up there, so you can pick up some things. It was a good bonding for the team.”

Peyton Sanders, who wrestled last year at 130 pounds at Houston Academy, finished 6-6 in matches at 140 pounds during the camp, while Beaver won four matches at 118.

The camp continued a busy summer for Beaver, who not only has been practicing with the Enterprise Assassins, but attended a camp in the Atlanta area that featured three-time NCAA champion Bo Nickal. Beaver also competed at the Disney Duals in Orlando.

“It has been filled with experience,” Beaver said. “It has been a good summer.”

Those wanting more information about the new Dothan wrestling club or to make contact with Stiffler, can call him at (609) 440-8128. They also can go to either the Enterprise Assassins Wrestling Facebook page or website.

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