SYRACUSE – Wawasee wrestling has been steadfast in maintaining a supreme level of excellence both on and off the mat. Four months ahead of the open of its season, the wrestling program hosted two elite national wrestlers for its summer day camp.
Two-time All-American Chad Red Jr. and NCAA National Champion Kendrick Maple were both on hand at the Wawasee camp on Friday, taking another step forward in bringing elite talent to teach the next generation of wrestlers. The two conducted and oversaw two large morning sessions, then pared down to direct a more intense session for a couple dozen focused athletes in the wrestling room in the upstairs corner of the Wawasee annex.
Maple, a 2014 champion at the University of Oklahoma and now a coach at the University of Missouri, brought a highlight reel of accomplishments per his résumé that includes being a three-time Division I All-American, three-time NWCA Academic All-American, two-time USA Freestyle National Team member and US Open Freestyle champion.
Red Jr. is a two-time NCAA All-American for the University of Nebraska as his redshirt sophomore season in Lincoln. A 2019 Big Ten runner-up, Red Jr. was also a Super 32, Flonationals and Fargo champion, and while a prep wrestler at New Palenstine in suburban Indianapolis, went undefeated for his career at 182-0 and won four IHSAA titles.
Both were impressed with the turnout for the camp, and the intensity the campers showed, much of the morning performers barely in elementary school.
“It’s a very unique experience and a very unique transition,” Maple said. “It is, in a way, the same with college kids and the little ones. Obviously the college kids are at a different level, but really most people just want to know you care. The little kids, they want to know you care. Not being some guy they’ve never seen before who doesn’t care about their performance. You do have to use a little different tone and watch what you say. But when you get down to actual wrestling, most of it is the same.”
Red Jr., just three years removed from his days as an undefeated prep wrestler at New Pal, had a little different viewpoint coming into Friday’s appearance.
“I remember what it was like being a kid and being at some of these types of camps,” Red Jr. said. “I’m just trying to teach them and influence them. Just go out there and have fun. If you are out there and having fun, things will just come to you and you might not even notice it. You might try one thing, see an opening on a leg, take them down and possibly put someone on their back, and not even know you could do it. I feel like some of the things that have helped me get to where I’m at I can teach to the next generation and put into their arsenal.”
Wawasee wrestling head coach Frank Bumgardner, who brought in two of Red Jr.’s coaches in Mark Manning and Bryan Snyder last summer, feels the trajectory of where the camp is going is reflective on where the Wawasee program is trending itself.
“We will be able to tell in the year’s to come and hindsight is 20/20 if these guys coming are paying off for us as a program,” Bumgardner said. “We are trying to maintain a sustained success, and bringing in guys of this caliber is huge, and also a compliment that these are world class wrestlers. Last year we had world class coaches. We want world class caliber. Both these guys here are at another level, Kendrick is now transitioning into coaching and Chad is an All-American who was undefeated in the state of Indiana. Those are the types of people we want to influence our program.”