By Moses Leos III
As an eighth grader in Missouri, current Hays High junior Daniel Bice remembers his first-ever encounter with wrestling.
Having entered during the middle of the season, Bice quickly learned how tough the sport could be.
“Everyone was fully conditioned,” Bice said. “I jumped into it and got my butt whooped.”
Despite the hard knocks, Bice enveloped himself in the “world’s oldest sport.” It led him to begin a crusade to bring wrestling to Hays CISD.
And while a club team is slated to begin in spring 2016, Bice believes it’s the first step toward fielding a UIL wrestling team.
“It’s a great moment of success and a great moment to help the community and not just myself,” Bice said. “It’s not only helping me, but student athletes. It gives people more outlets.”
His quest for a wrestling program began when he submitted a letter to the Hays CISD school board, Hays High principal David Pierce and Lehman High Principal Michelle Chae.
In the letter, Bice expressed the physical and psychological benefits wrestling gives to athletes. He said quick training workouts are effective at burning calories, along with improving balance, quickness and strength.
But Bice said the sport also provides an individual “snapshot” of an athlete’s discipline and work ethic. He said it helps students find skills that are advantageous for school and life.
“The type of skills that you’ll need to bounce back from life’s true tests: fear, failure and disappointment,” Bice wrote in his letter.
Soon after sending the letter, Bice started an online petition on change.org. So far, Bice has collected 265 supporters.
But the biggest challenge became convincing the decision makers. Primarily the athletic booster club and Pierce.
Bice met with the booster club and presented the benefits of wrestling and accompanying costs. A meeting with Pierce and Athletic Coordinator Neal LaHue soon followed on Feb. 5.
Hays CISD spokesperson Tim Savoy said both meetings revolved around the “up-sides and down-sides” of the sport.
It was in the meeting with Pierce that discussion focused on overall interest.
“When it comes down to it, if there is a high interest in it, we certainly would like to move forward toward getting a wrestling team,” Savoy said.
The decision to create a wrestling club at Hays High was made. Savoy said a club would be the best way to “test the interest, and if it’s a lasting interest.” He went on to say it would help students promote the sport further.
But what would be needed to start a wrestling program?
Cost and support are two major factors, according to LaHue. Purchasing necessary equipment and having a stipend for a coach are two primary expenditures. Support from the school board is also pivotal, as is overall athlete interest.
LaHue supports wrestling and said it was “big” during his tenure as Athletic Coordinator at San Antonio Roosevelt High School. With many wrestling teams across the area, LaHue was not concerned about finding an opponent.
“We are sandwiched by districts that have wrestling, so we don’t have to travel far to find competition,” he said.
Discussions of starting a wrestling team have traveled across IH-35 to Lehman High. According to Savoy, Lehman High principal Michelle Chae has heard of Bice’s petition. However, no further discussion has taken place.
Savoy believes Lehman would follow Hays’ lead and start a club team to determine interest.
While no discussions have taken place, Lehman High Athletic Coordinator Todd Raymond also is aware of the petition. He said the school has facilities to accommodate wrestling, but would have to purchase competition mats and other equipment.
Bice believes there will be adequate participation for wrestling. He believes the sport’s success could keep families from moving out of the district and into other areas where wrestling is established.
And while wrestling won’t happen until his senior year, Bice hopes it grows even further.
“I am happy that this is a possibility in the future,” Bice said. “It may not happen until my final year of high school, but I hope it leaves a legacy.”