Of course, most know about the much hyped WWE wrestling circus. Others take clear notice of the sport every four years when the Olympic Games commence. It is one of the original sports of the Games and is highly praised worldwide.
However, in America the gatekeepers of the sports information only provide space on their pages for football, basketball, hockey and baseball.
No matter. Throughout the country the ancient sport of wrestling is firmly rooted and has a wonderful history, except in most American inner cities.
The fact that the Detroit Public School League (PSL) does not field wrestling teams is perplexing. What is the real reason the PSL has never put any effort into the sport that helps turn boys to men?
When one looks at African-American high school wrestling coaches like Charlie Morgan at Ferndale and Glenn Washington at Highland Park, it only reaffirms the idea that exposure and opportunity make all the difference.
“I look at the PSL and I think it is familiarity,” Morgan said. “What they are missing is that the sport builds character and discipline. If the PSL did participate in wrestling it would change the face of the sport in this state.”
Morgan, who wrestled at Ferndale from 1966 to 1969, decided to stay close to the sports because of his younger brothers Gilbert and Glenn.
“My twin brothers are four years younger than I am,” Charlie said, “so I became inspired to teach them.”
Charlie, 58, who works at Oakland County Children’s Village, has been coaching the sport for 30 years. He founded that Ferndale Eagles Wrestling Club in 1994; the team taught ages 5 to 14. He has been the head coach at Ferndale since 1998.
During that time he and his assistant coaches, Bob Jones and John Bassier, have produced at least one all-state grappler every year. Although the sport is physical, Charlie noted that it can be a life-changing challenge.
“The beauty of the sport is that there are 14 different weight classes,” Charlie said. “It is an individual sport and the effort you put in is the return you’ll get on the mat. Wrestling tests an athlete’s quickness, speed and strength. But I’ve had some wrestlers that were not great athletes, but I tell them there are two things they have control over: Improving your technique and strength. Anyone can do that with effort.”
Charlie has proven that African-Americans can achieve in the sport of wrestling as three of his sons have excelled in the sport; they injested Dad’s lessons concerning effort.
“Charlie Jr., my oldest son, was a two-time All-State selection,” Charlie Sr. noted. “He only lost one match all year and that was in the state finals. He went to Morgan State on scholarship and qualified for the NCAA’s all four years there.
He now lives in Florida and teaches biology and is the high school wrestling coach.”
His second son, David, went to Morgan State but transferred to Michigan State University. At Ferndale he was an all-state performer, and, at MSU he was three times All-Big Ten and All-American.
His youngest son, Jonathan, was also a three-time all-state performer and finished as high as third in the state.
“What is difficult about the sport is the physical training,” Charlie Sr. said. “If a person does not have the mental toughness they will never make it. The problem is an athlete may have to take a whipping in the first year, but I’ve seen many in the second year, if they stick with it, make tremendous gains.”
Charlie Sr. noted that he still has the fire for coaching, but he acknowledged that he is frustrated that he has not been able to galvanize a team at the state level.
“I do not get the numbers,” he said. “I would like to compete for a team title at the state level. But when I think about it we must be doing something right, because we have had numerous league, district and Oakland County champions.”
Men like Charlie Sr. and Washington have proven that African-American kids can excel at the ancient sport of wrestling if given the exposure and opportunity.
Wake up, PSL. Any vehicle that provides scholarships and opportunities for youth should be implemented by the schools.
Digital Daily Signup
Sign up now for the Michigan Chronicle Digital Daily newsletter!