Seven years ago the St. James School District added high school wrestling to its athletic department.
And on Thursday night the school increased its commitment to the Tiger wrestling program.
During its meeting Thursday night the St. James Board of Education unanimously voted to add middle school wrestling to its list of sports offered.
The St. James Middle School wrestling team is scheduled to compete with a limited schedule during the upcoming 2013-14 school year.
"We're very excited about it," said St. James High School wrestling head coach Marty Hauck, who will also supervise the middle school wrestling program. "Last year we had over 20 kids who showed up for a kind of middle school club team.
"My hope is this will help get more experience in the sport to help feed our youth program, which in turn will then help feed into the high school program."
It is the second sport added to the St. James Athletic Department for the 2013-14 school year. The St. James High School boys' soccer team will hold its inaugural campaign this upcoming fall.
"Actually, we see (middle school wrestling) like it is in basketball – it's a feeder program to help get kids accustomed to our coaches and the competition they will see in the Four Rivers Conference," said St. James Athletic Director Phil West. "It will be an abbreviated schedule (for the upcoming school year). We'll try to get four duals and tri (meets) in along with a couple of tournaments. Then the kids can get back into the youth wrestling club program if they want and get more matches as well."
"Kids who can't afford the club tournament fees will still have an opportunity to compete," Hauck said. "The middle school program ends at Christmas break. We're looking at a couple of tournaments and a couple of tris. It will be a great beginning to the program."
Practice for the new St. James Middle School wrestling squad will begin on the first day that Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) winter sports teams can officially start practice sessions.
Hauck, who begins his seventh year as the first and only Tiger high school wrestling head coach, will also be directing the middle school program, along with his high school assistant wrestling coach, Kerry Branum.
However, Hauck said he and West will not get together and hammer out all of the logistics (who coaches the team when, what location practices and meets will be, scheduling, ect.) of starting the new program until after the upcoming state-mandated athletic 'dead week' period.
When considering the importance of middle school wrestling, Hauck points to programs like Waynesville, which has been a high school state power since including a wrestling squad at its middle school.
Page 2 of 2 - "We're excited about it," said Hauck, who during the school day teaches at the St. James Elementary School, which is where the high school team has been holding wrestling practices in the past. "I think our (high school) numbers will jump. My assistant will be at the high school (during the school day) and having a presence at the high school will help us tremendously."
Branum will be a guidance counselor at John F. Hodge High School.
"The main thing is it gives kids more opportunities and more athletic choices," West said of the addition of the program. "It's good for our kids and our school."
TIGER NOTES: On July 8-12 several members of the St. James High School wrestling team will travel to Hartland, Wis. to participate in the Ben and Max Askren Alcatraz Camp, to be held at the Askren Wrestling Academy Lake Country.
Ben and Max Askren are brothers who both won NCAA national championships while wrestling for Mizzou, and have since moved back to their home state of Wisconsin to run their wrestling camps.
The Alcatraz Camp will focus solely on the top position and is open to wrestlers entering grades 5-12. The camp is limited to just 35 wrestlers.