Youth coaching a big deal for Chertow | News, Sports, Jobs


By John Hartsock

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Ken Chertow has done it all in the sport of wrestling.

Chertow – who was a college assistant coach at the Division I level, a three-time former NCAA All-American at Penn State, and a freestyle competitor for the United States National Wrestling Team at the Summer Olympics in 1988 in Seoul, Korea – left no stone unturned.

Chertow said his greatest sense of personal fulfillment, however, came from leading his summer gold medal wrestling camp for boys and girls ages 5 to 18, which he has been doing ever since. two weeks at the Blair County Convention Center in Altoona.

“I love coaching kids, I love working with kids, I love watching them mature and develop as wrestlers and as people,” said Chertow, who helped launch future champions of the NCAA, PIAA State Champions and US National Champions in the Over 30s. years since he ran the camp, which he started as a gold medal training system when he graduated from Penn State in 1989.

” It is very enriching. I love seeing kids succeed,” added Chertow.

Helping to cultivate enjoyment and love of the sport of wrestling in the youth he coaches is a central theme of Chertow’s coaching philosophy.

“I hope they fall in love with wrestling,” Chertow said of the wrestlers under his care. “As a coach, from a technical standpoint, you want kids to become well-rounded wrestlers, build confidence, and be aggressive on the mats. But at the end of the day, you want them to have a positive experience, enjoy it, and fall in love with the sport, so they want to work hard and become motivated.

This year’s Chertow camp — which began June 26 and ends Sunday at the Convention Center — involved a total of 500 young wrestlers from across the country. Wrestlers from as far away as California and Arizona gathered in the Convention Center’s Bud Shuster Ballroom which has been transformed into a makeshift wrestling room with eight mats on the floor from end to end. other of the room.

There were also many local wrestlers at the camp. Wrestlers could choose from a variety of entry options. A fraction remained available for the entire two weeks, but others chose options of one week or less.

“Technically, I’ve learned a lot so far,” said Bellwood-Antis’ new senior Jason Pluebell, who wrestled at 189 pounds for the Blue Devils last year and was competing in his second Chertow camp, where he spent the past week. “I have a notebook full of two pages of technical stuff I’ve written and learned.

The gold medal wrestling camp is demanding but worth it, according to Pluebell.

“It’s very intense for the body,” Pluebell said of the camp, which involves a lot of live wrestling as well as technical training. “Anyone thinking of coming here must be prepared for aches and pains. All the intense live wrestling we do here is going to get you in shape. It’s fun and it’s challenging, but it’s worth it. »

The incoming junior Hoover Rally from the Hollidaysburg area, a Northwest Regional Class 3A tournament qualifier at 220 pounds last season, was making his third straight appearance at Gold Medal Wrestling Camp in Chertow this summer. Hoover attended the 2020 camp held at the Toftrees Resort near State College, and the camp’s inaugural hosting by the Blair County Convention Center last year.

Hoover thinks learning the sport of wrestling from legends like Chertow and the other top coaches who helped him at the Convention Center was an invaluable experience.

“He’s been a great guy to work with for the past three years,” Hoover said of Chertow. “This (camp) is really cool. I like being able to build on things I know and learn a lot of new things.

Among the coaches at this year’s camp were former Chertow camp protege Zain Retherford, who became NCAA champion at Penn State, and current University of Nebraska star Peyton Robb – who earned All-American status via a fourth-place finish at 157 pounds in the 2022 NCAA Wrestling Tournament.

Robb, who started attending Chertow’s camps at age 6, reunited with his former trainer recently when Chertow traveled to Nebraska to run a wrestling clinic.

“We hadn’t seen each other in a while and he asked me to help him with this camp,” Robb said. “It’s a great place. There’s a ton of mat space and a ton of wrestlers getting a lot of practice and a lot of wrestling. It was really good. I’m glad I came here to help.

Chertow thanked officials at the Blair County Convention Center and its president, Tom Schilling, for providing excellent accommodations for the event — including three venues with a total of 14 wrestling mats.

“I found this place and spoke with Tom at length,” said Chertow, a former Penn State and Ohio State assistant coach. “It’s the best wrestling facility in Pennsylvania. There are 14 mats here, a connected hotel for people from out of town, and the food is great. Things went well here last year, and we’re back for more this year.

Chertow, 55, a married father who now lives in Boalsburg, was a two-time high school state wrestling champion in West Virginia. He won two third-place NCAA Tournament medals at 125 pounds and a sixth-place finish at 118 as a Penn State Wrestler from 1987-89.

While at Penn State, he competed in the Olympics, recording a 1-1 record at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul.

“I have great memories of wrestling at Penn State – it was awesome,” Chertow said, becoming visibly emotional. “We had a great program back then, but now they’ve taken it to the next level.

And the wrestlers who cut their teeth in the sport at Chertow camps and clinics across the country over the years went on to go on to legendary college careers themselves.

“We teach the art of wrestling here,” Chertow said. “My goal is to positively impact the lives of the kids I coach, help them excel on and off the mat, and help them live their dreams.

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