Building champions |

Building champions

Bad Dog Wrestling Club taking it to the mat

John Vandelinder

— Robbie Jensen and T. J. Shelton make the trip from Meeker to Craig each Tuesday and Thursday to participate in the Bad Dogs Wrestling Club.

Tuesday, the wrestling couldn’t wait until practice began.

Shelton and Jensen were already fighting – not on the mats, but in the car.

Shelton pulled Jensen’s hair – more WWF-style wrestling than Bad Dogs’ – and Jensen wasn’t amused. He pulled off his seat belt, ready to exact revenge for what he called Shelton’s “girly fighting.”

Just as he was about to pounce, a voice echoed from the driver’s seat.

“Take it to the mat,” JaNae Shelton yelled.

The boys did as they were told and joined the more than 30 youths who work on their wrestling technique at the Bad Dogs Wrestling Club.

The club provides children ages 4 to 14 the opportunity to work on stand-ups, take-downs, grappling and good, old-fashioned strength and conditioning.

This is a sport where coaches, parents and even high school wrestlers – past and present – help build wrestling fundamentals.

“We are like a big family here,” assistant coach Shane Hadley said. “A large part of our success comes from the coaches and the families of these kids. We couldn’t do what we have done without them.”

What they’ve done is dominate just about anywhere they travel.

When questioned who captured first place in last week’s tournament, about 12 wrestlers raised their hands.

“If I had their kind of training, I would have been more dominant,” 2003 high school state runner-up Trevor Sloan said. “I get the chance to give them what I didn’t get. These kids are way better than I was at their age.”

Most youth sports follow the guideline of building toward the future, and this club is no different.

“We get them ready for the next level,” Hadley said. “When they get into high school, they are way ahead of the curve. They are very advanced by then.”

Many of the boys and girls of Bad Dogs Wrestling go on to be champions.

Hunter Coleman is in his fourth week as a wrestler. The 4-year-old barely fills his uniform.

“It is a great self challenge for Hunter,” said his father, Shawn Coleman. “This is a really good program. I’d like to see him go to state one day.”

Some wrestlers just come for the fun and friendships.

“We get to travel and make new friends,” Shelton said.

Others have other motives.

“I can’t wait to get to wrestling,” Jensen said – as evident by the car incident. “It’s the only time you get to mess around with people and not get in trouble.”

Regardless of the motives behind their wrestling passion, each has the same goal.


“We are really serious about what we do here,” Hadley said. “Bad Dogs win championships.”

John Vandelinder can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 211, or

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