LEWISTOWN - Wrestling is a sport where if you want to be good at it you have to put in the work.
There are no shortcuts. A young wrestler looking to hone his skill set must go to tournaments and wrestling camps to perfect his craft. This is non-negotiable.
The problem is the travel and the cost. Thanks to two local standout grapplers all that is about to change.
Former Lewistown wrestlers Matt Bonson and Matt Snyder are conducting a wrestling camp at the end of June for kids ages 4-18. The camp will showcase technique as well as conditioning and the mental aspect of the sport.
The Mifflin County Wrestling Camp runs from 6-8 p.m. June 27 and 9:30-11:30 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. June 28 at Mifflin County High School.
The cost is $55 with registration forms available at the high school. For more information, contact Bonson at 994-3905 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"This is something me and Matt wanted to do. We are both going to be back in the area at the same time. We wanted to give back to the community," Bonson said. "We both are from Mifflin County and both of us wrestled in college. We came back because we want to see Mifflin County keep doing well in wrestling.
"Going off to college and having some success like we did and being around great coaches, we've both learned what it takes physically and mentally, along with the work ethic and drive, needed to succeed. I believe we can show them what it takes to be a better wrestler."
The credentials both bring to the camp are impressive.
Bonson finished his career at Lewistown with a record of 159-31 including 79 pins from 2004-2007. The 159 victories and 79 falls are the most in county history. He won a District 6 title (2006) and placed three times at states (seventh in 2005, fourth in 2006 and fifth in 2007). Bonson wrestled in college at Virginia and Lock Haven.
Snyder wrestled for Lewistown from 2005-2008 and compiled a 128-12 career mark with 56 pins. His 44 wins in 2007 are the most ever in a single season by a county wrestler. Snyder captured two district and two regional championships (2007-2008) and placed three times at Hershey (third in 2006 and 2007, and second in 2008). He went on to have a stellar career at the University of Virginia. He is currently in Guatemala doing work for Athletes in Action, the Christian organization using sports to promote the gospel.
It's this vast array of skills and accomplishments at both the high school and collegiate levels, from both coaches, that Bonson believes makes this camp special. The kids will be exposed to things they may not have seen before.
"I don't think enough people are mean enough on top anymore. I'm going to show some setups I've learned from (Lock Haven coach) Scott Moore and (Virginia coach) Steve Garland," he said. "Matt is arguably one of the best scramblers I've ever seen and I'm sure that will be shown. We'll mix things up and show a lot of stuff.
"We are going to be doing live wrestling and work from different scenarios. There will be some conditioning mixed in at the end of the sessions. You have to have an attitude and a way about you."
In addition to the duo, Mifflin County coach Kirby Martin and assistant junior high coach Mark Cavanaugh will be in the room as well as other coaches from the Mifflin County staff.
Camps like these give the wrestlers who go to them an edge when it comes time for the regular season to start. Nothing helps better than live wrestling during the offseason and learning new tips, tricks and techniques in a camp or clinic setting. The advantages a kid has over one who doesn't participate in camps or summer wrestling is immense.
"I think it's a good thing for wrestlers to be exposed to a variety of different techniques and coaches because I think the more things a kid learns the more successful they can be," Bonson said. "To do well in high school you must not stop wrestling ever. A lot of high school wrestlers take breaks during a match, that's not a knock on them; it's just what they know. In college, you cannot stop wrestling or you will be punished. If a kid can learn that early to wrestle six minutes hard, they will be successful. Going to a camp like this is one way to learn that."
It's Bonson's hope that the alumni camp gets off to a good start and eventually become an annual event, giving the youngsters who participate the skills and discipline needed to succeed and keep wrestling going strong in Mifflin County.
"I want to see as many Mifflin County wrestlers, no matter what their ages, I want to see kids being interested in wrestling and doing the sport all year round and wanting to learn," Bonson said. "If that happens, I think Mifflin County wrestling will stay on the right track to getting better and better."