Naperville North and Naperville Central have produced state caliber wrestlers in past seasons but the foundation for success involving these grapplers was developed long before high school. For some, the work began before the middle school level as well. A lot of the success is thanks to programs like the Naperville Wrestling Club, a long-time feeder program where kids’ kindergarten to 8th can keep on wrestling and improve their skills all year round.
“It’s great for the sport, it’s great for the kids in Naperville because it gives them something to do over the winter. Each year we get more and more friends to come out and it’s just a fun thing to do,” said Naperville Wrestling Club President Erwin Aguinaldo.
Numbers Climbing Back Up
However, the club has seen enrollment numbers dip the past few years, mainly because of the COVID-19 pandemic contributing to decreased interest levels. Thankfully, 2022 has seen the numbers increase back to pre-pandemic levels. The athletes who have participated in the sport for an extended time, love to see the new additions develop their own passion for wrestling.
“It’s cool to see the sport grow because three years ago there were not as many kids as there are now so it’s cool to see your friends here,” said Club wrestler Justin Skryd.
“The best I’ve got out of it is the community. I didn’t have as many friends as I did before I started wrestling and the community that wrestling bought for me got me in a better spot,” said Club wrestler Saidi Liu.
Female Wrestlers Fueling Population Increase
Another reason the sport is continuing to grow has been the interest of girls who want to show their strength on the mats. The IHSA held its first ever state tournament for girls wrestling last winter as female wrestling numbers have been steadily climbing not just in Naperville but across the country. The Naperville Wrestling Club is excited to show that anyone who has interest can compete.
“It showed them the sport that anybody can do it, everybody can have fun and as long as you’re on the mats you can wrestle,” said Aguinaldo.
“It really impressed me that there are so many girls doing wrestling,” said club wrestler Mikey Andler.
“My sister gets to wrestle in the club and there’s been a lot more girls since my when I started wrestling,” club wrestler Barrett Andler.
With more boys and girls in the wrestling room, the future is bright for the sport in Naperville and the state of Illinois. There have been over a dozen state champion wrestlers from our local schools in Naperville and Aurora, but none since 2006. But clubs like the NWC are working hard to give everyone a chance to develop the spirit of competition, community and maybe someday become the area’s next champion.
“It’s showing us there’s so many other schools out there that need teams and these kids really want to wrestle and you never know you might find that diamond in the rough that can be a State champion one day,” said Aguinaldo.
Naperville News 17 Patrick Codo Reports.