For the last nine years, Mike Wenger has been training Wadsworth wrestlers in a barn on his Wadsworth Township property.
He watched his son Clay go from a biddy wrestler to a Kent State grappler after spending countless hours with his Grizzly teammates working out in the barn.
Now Wenger and his son have expanded on that thought of giving wrestlers a place to train and compete. That place is Battlezone Fitness Club, which the Wengers have started in a building in Barberton owned by former Wadsworth wrestler Chris Williams. It will be devoted to wrestling camps and training sessions, along with MMA training.
“It started getting too crowded,” said Mike, who led Wadsworth coach John Gramuglia’s youth program for several years. “We wanted to move it and get more communities doing it by doing some camps and bringing guys in.
“I’ve known Chris from wrestling and we were out on his birthday and he mentioned he might have a place.”
Last month, with the help of Clay, the 50-year-old Mike Wenger opened the facility, which will house camps, workouts and even a couple 24-hour Preseason Team Challenges that involve a different workout at the top of each hour.
While Mike’s top goal is promoting the advancement of a sport that has been so good to him after wrestling for Copley and Kent State, laying down the building blocks for Battlezone with the help of his son was a reward in itself.
“It’s been great,” he said. “He really wants to help kids and he’s good at it. He’s a real hard-working kid.”
Clay, who will be a redshirt sophomore this season for the Golden Flashes at 157 pounds, has served as an instructor for many of the camps and clinics, along with coaching the Grizzly Freestyle Club, which included a handful of county wrestlers.
“It’s been a lot of fun working with my dad,” said the 21-year-old, who is the fifth member of his family to wrestle at Kent State. “I had him as a coach since I was 4 and now we’re working together, coaching and helping kids.
“My dad is just awesome and he’s helped a lot of people. He’s inspired me and taught me a lot about wrestling and being a good person.”
Now the Wengers are passing on their knowledge of the sport.
With help purchasing mats from Wadsworth and Medina, which is coached by another former Grizzly in Chad Gilmore, the Wengers have made the facility one of the places to be for any wrestler that wants to take his game to the next level.
“It’s been great,” Clay said. “I got to have the barn and that helped a ton of kids. Having this new, bigger spot, and having it not just for Wadsworth guys, is great for all kids.”
Along with wrestling workouts, Battlezone is offering women’s boot camp, which is led by Mike’s wife Kathy.
The hope is to someday expand to include his daughter Kelsey in possibly giving softball lessons. She will be a senior at Wadsworth.
There are also plans for personal training and a variety of other fitness classes.
Another former Grizzly and UFC fighter Josh Hendricks will be leading classes and lessons as well. Hendricks was a state runner-up for Wadsworth and went on to be an All-American at Ashland.
“We’ve had so much luck with so many good people,” Mike said. “I never thought it would be like this, but it’s been fun.
“It’s a tough business, but we’re ready to battle and that’s what we teach the kids. You can’t win all the time, but you can battle.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.