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RHHS grapplers help build new practice area
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Wrestlers and coaches clean out a building on the Richmond Hill High School campus that will be used for a wrestling-practice facility. - photo by Photo by Paul Floecker

Coaches often preach that hard work in practice pays off.

A group of local wrestlers have been putting in hard work this month to forge a place of their own to practice.

High-school, middle-school and youth-program wrestlers, along with coaches and parents, are volunteering their time to renovate a vacant building on the Richmond Hill High School campus into a wrestling practice facility.

They have been working up a sweat in the June heat demolishing the interior walls and part of the bathroom area, creating an open space inside the building for wrestling mats.

“I love this. I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” rising RHHS sophomore wrestler Michael Allen said after lugging torn-down blocks from inside the building to a trash bin.

The project, made possible by the RHHS Wrestling Booster Club, will give Richmond Hill’s high-school and youth wrestling programs a year-round home. The building is next to the high school’s west gym, which the Wildcat wrestlers have been using for practice.

However, the high-school wrestling program has had to share the west gym with RHHS cheerleading. The quarters become even tighter on rainy days when football practice or ROTC training must be moved indoors.

“For everybody, this is going to be a big benefit,” said RHHS and youth wrestling coach Bill Evans.

“It’s going to be awesome to practice here,” Allen said. “It’s going to be a big, whole room with just us.”

A designated wrestling area also will cut down on the set-up time for practices, enabling the wrestlers to head home earlier. Each time the high-school or youth program practices, the wrestling mats must be rolled out, taped in place and mopped, and then rolled back up so the gym can be used for other activities.

“There’s going to be an hour-and-a-half of set-up, at least, between the two programs that’s going to be saved every day,” Evans said.

The under-renovation building already has working heating and air, plumbing and lighting, but has been sitting vacant. While the RHHS wrestlers have been practicing in the air-conditioned west gym, the youth-program wrestlers have not had the luxury of air conditioning in the gym they have been using at a nearby church.

That has made for hot practices in the summer — even with the doors open and a large fan running.

“You go outside in 100-degree weather to cool off,” said Brad Emerine, the father of youth wrestler Bray Emerine. “This (new building) is huge for these kids.”

The benefits of the wrestling building will extend beyond just the athletics program, though. RHHS can use it for other purposes throughout the school year, according to Evans.

For example, Evans said, the building could house the Advanced Placement test that was given in May. The open interior could hold enough desks for AP testing to be done in one place rather than in multiple rooms, he added.

“We’ll roll our mats up against the wall and you can put in a hundred desks, easy,” Evans said. “You can give one test, instead of having three different teachers running three different tests.”

While the wrestlers, coaches and supporters have been providing free labor, the project will need some community donations in order to be completed.

The donations will be used primarily for putting padding on the walls, according to Evans. The padded walls will enable the wrestlers to use every bit of the 30-feet-by-80-feet of mat on the floor.

“So you can wrestle right up against the wall,” Evans said. “In the gym, you get to the edge of the mat and you’re stopping because you don’t want to hit the floor.”

Work on the wrestling building will continue through the summer. Evans has not set a specific completion date, but he does make one guarantee.

“It’s going to be good to go for this coming school year — if I have to come out here every day,” Evans said. “It’s too important to the program and the Richmond Hill community.”

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