Northview High School’s Junior Titans wrestling program has undergone massive changes, including a limitation to 50 students.
Northview Wrestling Program Director Bob Biondich has overseen both the high-school wrestling program and Junior Titans, whose participants are ages 6-14, for the last five years. During this time, he has seen two broad categories of youth — those who abandon sports in favor of sedentary activities and are not athletic and single-sport specialists who play year-round and suffer injuries due to overuse of particular muscles.
Although the Junior Titans have dramatically increased from 14 students and two coaches to over 100 students and nine coaches during his tenure, Biondich has simplified his goals.
“I want 50 kids that are dedicated to being a better athlete, to being a better wrestler, and the most important, to be a better person at the end of the season,” he said.
To that end, the Junior Titans program has been revamped as the Titan 50. Students will receive new singlets, new training and new coaches. One goal is to make participants better athletes in general, able to play sports like baseball, football or lacrosse as well as wrestle. He said he’d like to draw in students who don’t have fathers who play catch with them. To that end, the Titan 50 will include games like rugby and dodgeball.
“I try to make it more than just wrestling,” he said. “It’s companionship. It’s fun.”
One aspect of the program Biondich has introduced already is yoga once a week. The kids thought this funny at first, due to its feminine connotations, but they weren’t laughing long.
To improve participants’ character, Biondich will institute a mentorship program in conjunction with the Will to Live Foundation. In December, the foundation will hold a dinner for the high school and junior wrestlers in which an older wrestler and a younger wrestler will be paired off. The goal is for the high-school wrestlers to be leaders to the younger students on and off the mat, to show them what it’s like to be responsible for another person.
The December dinner will also feature an appearance by Kyle Maynard, a congenital amputee who became a well-known wrestler, and John Trautwein, the founder of the Will to Live Foundation. Trautwein will tell the students about loving their neighbors and friends and keeping open communication, while Maynard will expound his message of never giving up and “no excuses.”
“I think it will be an extremely powerful night,” Biondich said.
Participation will be limited to 50 students. Biondich said the Titan 50 is something kids will want to participate in due to the specialized training and the low cost — $175 for the whole year.
So far, 36 kids have signed up to participate, all without advertising. Biondich will hold an open house at 6:30 p.m. at the wrestling building behind Northview High School Oct. 23 and the season will begin Oct. 30.