LAURINBURG — Eight years after Joe Baranik started the St. Andrews summer wrestling/fitness camp, the program is running as strong as ever.
Now, Baranik even has a wrestling legend helping him.
Teenagers and prospective St. Andrews recruits ranging from 12-18 years old began the St. Andrews wrestling camp on Sunday, and closing ceremonies are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Thursday. Baranik, along with special guest Gray Simons, lead the three-day camp that teaches wrestlers discipline and technique to prepare them for the next step in their careers.
Simons is a two-time Olympian and a seven-time national champion. Baranik coached under the 74-year-old Simons for three years at Old Dominion, and their relationship brought Simons to the camp this year.
Simons loves to teach, and says it is a new experience for him every time he has the chance to interact with young wrestlers.
“Every time I teach, I’m learning something too. I’m learning how to teach better — I’m only 74,” he said with a grin.
Baranik also oozes with enthusiasm for the sport and wants his wrestlers to bring that same intensity.
“I told them I want them at least 20 percent better than they were when they got here,” Baranik said. “We want them to work hard and increase their skills so they can be state champs — obviously some kids aren’t going to win states but we want them to reach their full potential.”
Baranik wants his wrestlers to have fun too, as shown when he asked one of them to perform a running back-flip.
Baranik has integrated more fitness exercises into the camp than in previous years, focusing on swimming and gymnastics. This has created more opportunities for the wrestlers to work hard while also keeping the experience fresh.
Despite this new wrinkle in workout routine, Simons is one of the driving forces behind the success of the camp this year. Baranik said he could not be happier to have him.
“He’s my idol,” Baranik said. “I’ve seen all of the great college coaches run clinics. He’s the best.”
Simons doesn’t see himself stopping anytime soon.
“I’m still in pretty good health,” Simons said. “I don’t actually wrestle, I just show them the moves. Whenever I get the urge to wrestle, I just lie down until it goes away.”
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.