Getting Up Off The Mat

It is great to see SportsLeader coaches and their teams get such good press.

Chris and his team have shoveled over 100 driveways so far this winter plus helped a driver out of a ditch? How many have you shoveled with your team?

The gauntlet has been laid down! 


Getting Up Off The Mat
BY SCOTT SPRINGER • [email protected] â€¢ DECEMBER 23, 2010

When you sign up to wrestle at Winton Woods High School, you best bring a good attitude, toughness, and a willingness to learn something (other than wrestling).

Despite having just recently won their first invitational in recent memory (Bishop Fenwick on Dec. 4) coach Chris Willertz has had his Warriors focused on building non-wrestling bridges.

The third-year coach has his boys focused on the mat, but even more so on the future. Academics, perseverance, community service and the difference between what is right and wrong is just as important for a Winton Woods wrestler as pinning his opponent.

"I didn't want the kids to be great wrestlers when they graduated and then struggle," said Willertz. "I got with my assistants and said, 'I want to do more for the boys than just use them.'"

To hit home with that message, Willertz has made use of activities and responsibilities away from school for his student-athletes. Many schools at different levels take their kids on team-building trips and retreats and Willertz and the Warriors just returned from one in November.

"I worked through an organization called Sports Leader," said Willertz. "Sports Leader's purpose is to help coaches teach their boys more than just the sport. They have a retreat site out in Indiana, about 130 acres. They have some tents and a fishing pond and a swimming pond."

Unfortunately, 25 to 30 degree temperatures didn't allow for much swimming, but within a 24-hour period, Willertz was able to provide his grapplers with some valuable life lessons.

"Moeller High School's wrestling team took 40-50 kids out there and some public schools have used it," said Willertz, who took 15 Warriors with him. "We want to make the kids think that they're roughing it, even though they're really not roughing it. (We) get them out in nature and talk to them about what it means to be a real man and have some fun out there."

Fun included dividing his guys into three groups and seeing who could gather the most firewood for a bonfire. Naturally, for most coaches and athletes, everything's a competition.

It's exactly why Willertz has embraced the concept of combining physical activity with spiritual/mental meaning.

If you happen to live near a Winton Woods wrestler, odds are you have a clean driveway when the snow falls. The Warriors of Willertz wipe the walkways clean on days when most of their classmates are sleeping in.

"That's our community service program," said Willertz. "Last year the people of the community voted in a levy and we wanted to do something to pay them back. With us being a winter sport, it (shoveling) just made sense."

How was the Chris Willertz Wrestling/Shoveling Workout born?

"I went on a retreat and God spoke to me," said Willertz. "Your wrestlers on snow days, you can't force them to come in on because of liability issues. I make our workouts optional on snow days because of road conditions. But I said, 'You need to be working out, it's wrestling season.'"

Much like how Rocky Balboa trained for the Russian Ivan Drago in Siberia for in "Rocky IV", the Winton Woods wrestlers are getting in shape the "old school" way with some good old-fashioned hard work. Besides, lifting and throwing something in a vigorous motion logically can be translated into a wrestling move.

"If you go shovel a driveway, you'll work up a sweat and you'll be able to get a good workout in if you can't make it to practice," said Willertz. "You're also helping out in the neighborhood."

The program has evolved to the point that Willertz has his boys assigned to certain driveways and members of the community are phoning him with requests. The goodwill gesture has landed the program media exposure and shovels have been donated to help the cause.

In return, those benefiting from the clean driveways can also give back.

"People that get their snow shoveled have the option of adopting one of my wrestlers," said Willertz. "They don't have a whole lot of money. It cost $60 to wrestle and their school fees have to be paid. But, if they don't have the money we still put them on the snow tree and do it regardless."

This time of year, it's all in the spirit of giving.