Grapling with funding

Four years after starting the process the Santa Monica Bay Wrestling Club has secured a grant to establish an Interscholastic Wrestling Program at John Adams and Lincoln middle schools.

The season will begin April 2 and run through the end of May and will include at least two duel meets and a tournament at the end of the season. The program will be instructed by the Santa Monica High School coaching staff, said
Robert Forster, one of the club’s founders.

“We’ve been offering classes at the high school for six years now, but many of the younger kids couldn’t participate because it was held later in the day and at Samohi,” said Forster, who wrestled in high school and college and now works as a physical therapist in Santa Monica where he has helped star athletes like Pete Sampras and Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

“We wanted to offer something at the school sites to make it easier for kids to get involved,” Forster added. “It’s hard to create a good wrestling program if you start at the ninth grade. You have to start young.

“It’s a good, clean, safe sport that just about anyone can participate in. A lot of kids go to high school and can’t find a sport because they aren’t big enough to play football, fast enough to play baseball or soccer. Here’s a sport that lets you compete by weight class so everyone has a chance to compete and have some success.”

Wrestling has a rich history in Santa Monica and is enjoying a robust renaissance in recent years with coaches Mark Black and Brent Wright helping JAMS alumnus Yusaf Syed
reach the boys’ California State Championship in 2007 and Lincoln alumnus Jazzy Green to the girls’ State Championship twice (2005 and 2006).

Practice at the two middle schools will be held every Monday,Wednesday, and Friday from 3:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Practices will include instruction in technique, sportsmanship and scientific fitness training principles.

Local parents Forster and Steve Shapiro joined Mark Black in creating the Santa Monica Bay Wrestling Club in 2002 to establish an evening program for kids from Santa Monica High School. Over the past six years hundreds of local students have been exposed to the sport.

The grant for the middle school program was awarded after a three year application process working with the LA84 Foundation, the organization funded by the profits generated
by the Summer Olympics in 1984. One of the only profitable Olympics in recent times, the legacy of the 1984 Olympics continues to give to local nonprofit programs toprovide meaningful experiences in athletic
competitions.

The partial grant will pay for two wrestling mats and equipment including shoes, headgear, knee pads, scales, time clocks, score keeping equipment, first aide kits and cleaning supplies. Fees paid by participating families (scholarships bases on need are available)will pay for shirts, shorts, insurance and coaching. Additional funds will be raised by the club through local fundraising efforts.

The program costs $150 per participant. For any additional information regarding the program, e-mail Forster at forsterpt@aol.com or call (310) 656-8600.

“When I was in sixth grade back in New York, I had a great gym teacher who changed my life by introducing me to the sport,” said Forster, who wants other kids, both boys and girls, to have similar experiences through wrestling. “It gave me the self confidence and the strength to handle so many things in my life.”

Article featured in the Santa Monica Daily Press on March 27th, 2008.