Yesterday, eight of the country’s finest Greco Roman wrestlers visited Will Rogers Elementary School in Colorado Springs, Colorado to give a presentation to the students. US National Team Head Coach Matt Lindland enlisted an impressive group of athletes for the cause: Olympian Robby Smith, RaVaughn Perkins, G’Angelo Hancock, Cheney Haight, Patrick Martinez, Corey Hope, Joe Lyle, and Bo Beckman. The discussion centered around leadership and respect, which are topics that were quite familiar to the wrestlers involved.
“Overall, it was a really great experience not just for the kids, but us, too”, said Smith. “I have a big heart when I speak to schools because I’m dyslexic, I have a reading disability, a spelling disability, ADD, been in resource classes, all those things and plus, I was bullied when I was younger. I looked up to the older kids who showed me respect by leading me, as well as my coaches and teachers.”
The athletes all played a role in the assembly, though Smith and Hancock spent the most time on the microphone. Hancock’s story had some steam of its own – the Junior World Team member is from Colorado and has overcome numerous obstacles of his own ahead of achieving success on the national stage. “It was motivating”, Hancock declared. “It inspired me to be able to talk to children and share my story, to be able to come and give back to the schools.”
A “Q & A” session was also part of the proceedings. Students asked the group questions about a slew of subjects and even got to see Martinez nail an arm-throw. For many of the kids it was not only an opportunity to check out what high-level wrestlers are like in the flesh, but they also got to learn that events like this are taken very seriously by the athletes, who see themselves as more than just along for the ride.
“We’re here to inspire lives”, Smith explains. “We are here to be great representatives of not just ourselves, but also as Greco Roman athletes.” Smith also recognizes that the logos on the shirts and jackets are more than just design-wear. “We’re representing the United States of America, the USOC and the OTC. We don’t just carry our own name, we carry the biggest in the world, the USA. I’m just proud to be a part of this group that helped out these kids today. It was pretty awesome.”
If Smith is of the attitude that what the athletes say makes a difference, Hancock is in lock-step with him. The question is, does the rising star see himself becoming a role model right before our very eyes?
Hancock didn’t hesitate to answer. “Absolutely. During the speech it actually inspired me to be more of a role model. Now that I am one, I need to take that character and personality into my everyday life. I have to think now how I do have little kids looking up to me, other wrestlers, even parents and teachers look up to me because of the stories I have to share.”
Needless to say, it was quite an experience for all involved. The US Greco Team is always quick to reach out to the community but when things like this break right, it imparts as much of an impact on the athletes as it does those they meet with. Undoubtedly there is more to come.