Arlington wrestlers train with some of Europe’s finest

The crew of wrestlers who made the trek to Germany this summer pose for a photo in the Berlin train station.   - Courtesy photo
The crew of wrestlers who made the trek to Germany this summer pose for a photo in the Berlin train station.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

No less ambitious than his goals for the program, Arlington wrestling coach Shaun Williams took 15 club wrestlers to Germany to work on their skills against elite European competition less than a year after taking the helm of the wrestling team.

The team started the summer with 22 wrestlers making the trip to a camp at North Idaho College, where Williams was an assistant coach before coming to Arlington.

But for those who could make it, the European trip was the highlight of the summer.

“We had the time of our lives,” said assistant coach Jim Smoots, who helped chaperone the wrestlers for three weeks in July as the team trained and traveled across Germany and Poland.

For the first week, the Arlington team trained two-a-days with Saxon wrestling team RV Thalheim, which is led by three-time Olympian Sven Thiele, a European champion for both the German and German Democratic Republic teams. The second week, they visited another Saxon town, Leipzig, and with their KFC Leipzig team under wrestling luminaries including a former head coach of the German wrestling team.

“It was amazing for our kids to have the opportunity to wrestling in an informal setting with world-level competitors, even if some of them were retired for a few years,” said Williams, a 2004 Olympian in his own right, competing for South Africa. “We could see that our kids started to grasp the various concepts and strategies of wrestling that make people successful at every level of competition.”

The competition was an eye-opening experience for Chris Berg, who will be a senior on the Arlington wrestling team this fall.

“I don’t know if it was because we were over there, we thought we were going to get our butts handed to us,” he said. “But I think a few were national champions and seeing that we can actually compete with them, and understand that it’s not that different from over here, we can compete with anybody.”

The third week, the team visited historic sites in Berlin, including the Berlin Wall and Brandenburg Gate. They also visited Poland, with stops including the concentration camp at Auschwitz.

Fourteen of the 15 wrestlers are Arlington kids, including eight guys returning from last year’s varsity team — Chris Covey, Hunter Amundson, Chris Berg, Shawn Berg, Nathan Shortt, Dustin Ward, Seth Henderson and Ben Torve.

The American and European wrestlers hit it off so well that the German wrestlers plan to return the visit in the summer of 2010. The team is also planning another European trip for the summer of 2011.

“I believe that our kids developed as a team and not just as individuals over the last few months,” Williams summed up.

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