Back on the mat | CraigDailyPress.com

Back on the mat

Bad Dogs youth wrestling team resumes season

John Vandelinder

On the street, in school or in front of the TV watching cartoons, the members of the Bad Dogs youth wrestling team look like most other children their age.

But put them in headgear and a singlet, and show them a mat, and their demeanor instantly changes.

Gone are the stuffed animals and toys.

Gone are the video games and cartoons.

And gone are the playful and childish acts of a kid.

What you’ll find is aggression, tenacity and the will to fight – three attributes that are in high demand in wrestling-crazed Craig.

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Residents of Craig “love their wrestling,” Bad Dogs director Bill Bingham said. “We are loaded this year. We came into the season with the idea that we were going to limit the team to 40 kids, but we have almost 50. Just today, I had like six messages from parents who want to get their kids involved, and we can’t fit them.”

The Bad Dogs wrestling program acts as a pipeline to the high school program – a program that has claimed a school record 23 state titles.

“Our kids have thousands of matches, easy, under their belts before they get to the next level,” Bingham said. “Take a look at some of these little kids. They are 3 and 4 years old, and they work just as hard as the older kids. They don’t know any different. We don’t baby them when they are in here, and we expect the same from them as everybody else.”

The team traveled to a weeklong summer camp in Denver after school let out in June, then it took a break until practices resumed two weeks ago.

The season kicks off this weekend, as five members of the team – Deven Mosman, Ethan Powers, Greg Hickson, Charlie Griffiths and Ashley Griffiths – will compete in the Monster Match tournament in Denver.

“We are only sending a few of the kids, because we’ve only had a few practices so far this season,” Bingham said.

The Bad Dogs’ success throughout the years has captured the attention of not only rival Western Slope teams, but teams on the national level, as well.

“We go to tournaments where these kids get so well-known, people actually take kids out of brackets because they don’t want to wrestle against our kids,” Bingham said. “Sometimes, it’s tough to get matches. Sometimes, we have 8-year-old kids wrestle in a 12-and-under bracket so they can get some competition.”

And for good reason. The Bad Dogs compete in three leagues during the season – the Inter Mountain League, the Denver Metro League and Western Suburban League.

“We wrestle in all three,” Bingham said. “A lot of times, we’ll wrestle duals Friday, a tournament on Saturday, then duals on Sunday. They travel quite a bit.”

So how does the team afford to travel as much as they do?

“The parents help a lot, but we have a ton of sponsors that are really behind this program.” Bingham said. “Everybody in this town is really into this sport.”

Not only does Bingham and his staffs of coaches preach discipline on the mat, but outside the mat, as well.

“School comes first,” Bingham said. “If I find out they are (messing) around in school, they’re not wrestling. They take it seriously. They know we mean business.”

The business of kicking butt, without worrying about taking names.

John Vandelinder can be reached at 875-1793 or jvandelinder@craigdailypress.com