MWF, Sunkist Kids Club Hope to Breed Olympians

MUTIGERS.COM Henson has been a coach for the Sunkist Kids Club since 2007, and was named head coach in 2011.
Henson has been a coach for the Sunkist Kids Club since 2007, and was named head coach in 2011.

Oct. 23, 2013

-by Amanda Nusbaum, Mizzou Staff Writer

A large majority of high school athletes don't make it to the college level in their sport. An even smaller majority actually pursue their sport at the professional or Olympic level. For wrestlers, the numbers are especially small, as the market for wrestlers has grown increasingly smaller, with the Olympic level in particular losing almost half of its weight classes within the past 10 years. For some wrestlers straight out of college, pursuing their Olympic dreams can be a lonely battle. Currently on the rise, however, is a way to train with other wrestlers - all following similar dreams - while creating that valued team environment that is lost after college.

This past weekend, former Tiger grappler Nick Marable, who along with teammate Dom Bradley is pursuing a professional career, participated in the inaugural Tour ACW event, a unique tournament that will help them take the next step towards fulfilling their professional wrestling dreams.

The Tour ACW, sponsored by the Association of Career Wrestlers, is giving wrestlers an opportunity to wrestle competitively as post-collegians. And for Marable, it was too good of an opportunity to turn down.

"It's a new style of wrestling with no time limits. Instead of a 6-7 minute match, they could go a lot faster or much longer. It was a good experience, though, and there were a lot of good athletes there."

Marable actually ended up wrestling a total of 41 minutes by the end of the day, including two 16-minute matches, to win the title in the 170-pound weight class. He received a $2,500 check for taking first, but the Tour ACW is hoping to expand the payouts to the top four wrestlers in each weight class during their next event, set to take place in April.

Marable and Bradley currently wrestle at such events sponsored by both the Missouri Wrestling Foundation and Sunkist Kids Club. The University of Missouri's wrestling facilities hold a regional Olympic Training Center (MWF) where elite wrestlers, like Nick and Dom, are able to train under the head coach for the Sunkist Organization, former Olympian and current head assistant coach at Mizzou, Sammie Henson. The Sunkist Organization has been around approximately 30 years; Henson himself was part of the club.



"I'm the head Sunkist coach, so it's positive for them to be coached by someone who has been to the Olympics and who has coached Olympians," Henson said of Marable and Bradley. "They're still around Missouri Wrestling, too, which is good for both sides. We have the No. 2 recruiting class in the country right now also, and those guys have dreams just like Nick and Dom. We're one of the few programs in the country that have the next level after college available right here."

"Coach Henson's wrestling style is similar to mine," Marable points out of his coach, "which has improved my technique significantly."

Henson also knows just how great it is for Nick and Dom to train here around the other guys. The MWF allows them to keep the team aspect of wrestling that they would normally lose going elsewhere after graduation.

"When I came back here after graduation, I was the only one training here," Henson recalls. "I was training myself and doing it all alone because I didn't really have a coach. The coaches' main focus is college wrestling. It's miserable having to do it by yourself."

Being sponsored by MWF and Sunkist has allowed Marable to solely focus on improving his wrestling. The funding makes it possible for him to travel overseas to compete, further preparing him for his chance to compete for the United States of America in the 2016 Olympics.

"Dom was the US Open National Champion this year. Nick happens to be in a weight class where you've got a world and Olympic champion (Jordan Burroughs) and also four-time national champion, Kyle Dake. It's a tough weight class. But also, he's become a better coach being around (Mizzou). I take him to camps and such, too. As he's become a better coach, he's most certainly become a better wrestler."

While Marable is incredibly appreciative of everything the coaches and Mizzou Wrestling have done for him, Henson recognizes the improvements he's seen of Nick and Dom, and says that as the program grows, they'll add more wrestlers, strengthening the team aspect of it all. For now, prepping them for their upcoming events is what Henson is focusing on in his Sunkist role. Nick will head to the New York Athletic Club Holiday International Open on November 10, and Dom will join him in Minnesota in December. International competitions overseas will kick off in the beginning of 2014.

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