“I always went to camps like this when I was little and I learned a lot from them. Through college I was able to do some camps of my own and Chad (Jones) got a hold of me and I decided I wanted to help out.”
— Joe Leblanc, a Meeker native and four-time All American wrestler for the University of Wyoming, about why he decided to get involved with a wrestling camp last weekend in Hayden
Youth wrestlers from Craig and Hayden were given first-class teaching by a former NCAA All-American over the weekend at Hayden High School.
Moffat County High School wrestling coaches Roman Gutierrez and Chad Jones put on a wrestling camp for students from elementary through high school.
Leading the Friday and Saturday camp was Joe Leblanc, a four-time NCAA All-American for the University of Wyoming.
Leblanc taught wrestlers basic wrestling techniques like double legs and half-nelsons, which he considers to be the key to a successful wrestling career.
“I didn’t show you guys anything flashy today, just the basics,” Leblanc told campers. “But, if you go to a college wrestling meet, that’s what you’ll see guys doing. The double legs, the simpler stuff.”
The camp was for 7th through 12th graders on Friday, and then 6th grade and below Saturday.
Helping Leblanc out was a teammate from Wyoming, Brandon Richardson, who just completed his redshirt freshman season with the Cowboys.
Jones said it was an honor to have those two help with the camp.
“They’re good guys, they’ve really done well for themselves,” he said. “Joe really has enlightened (the campers) on a lot of stuff that we do in the high school program, but also with the finer points, how to do stuff right.”
Jones also said it made a big difference that campers came with the right attitude.
Leblanc said they were one of the better groups he has had.
“We had a great group of kids who listened,” Leblanc said. “This was one of my favorite camps, these guys were awesome. I didn’t have to make them do any pushups. Especially with the younger ones, I was impressed with their attentiveness and willingness to learn.”
Leblanc, a Meeker native, finished up at Wyoming after spending four years in the 184-pound class.
During that time he was an All-American all four years of his eligibility, a three-time Academic All-American and helped lead Wyoming to its first top 10 ranking in school history.
Now Leblanc has accepted a job with the Indiana University wrestling team as an assistant coach.
Despite his individual success and move across the country, it was a no-brainer to come and help host the camp.
“I always went to camps like this when I was little and I learned a lot from them,” he said. “Through college I was able to do some camps of my own and Chad got a hold of me and I decided I want to help out.
“There’s kind of been a slump in Northwest Colorado wrestling. We used to be competing for state titles. I just wanted to come out and help out and give back to the communities that gave me so much.”
To conclude the camp Leblanc spoke to the attendees about maintaining a strong work ethic to be successful.
He also addressed a stigma many wrestlers have to deal with.
“If you guys stick with wrestling you’ll hear other people making fun of you because of the singlets and stuff,” he said. “Don’t ever worry about that kind of stuff.
"You should be proud to be a wrestler. It’s a great sport and it’s something to be proud of.”
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