Success is great, but there are other ways to win in life, according Joel Partridge. This is the message the coach hopes to instill in local youth through the Socorro Warrior Junior Wrestling program.

Photo by Anthony Welch - El Defensor Chieftain: Coach Curtis Johnson lets Trey Partridge practice the half nelson move during practice.

“It’s nice to say that winning is not important, but there’s lots of ways to win in life,” Partridge said. “I’m able to get knocked down in life but keep going because of wrestling.”

The program, started in 2008, focuses on a mission to improve youths’ lives through the balance of sportsmanship, leadership and discipline, Partridge said.

Photo by Anthony Welch - El Defensor Chieftain: Four-year-old Kadeyn McNeil stretches his neck prior to drills

The program, open to ages 4 through 15, currently has close to 30 wrestlers involved, but Partridge wants to increase that number. His goal is to not only get more kids interested in wrestling but teach them a few life lessons as well.

“(Wrestling) helped shaped my life and how I handled myself,” he said. “We like to show kids that it’s good to give back to your community.”

A key component of the program is Partridge requires all his wrestlers to maintain a 2.5 GPA throughout the school year. If a wrestler’s grades begin to slip, the entire team will meet for study sessions, Partridge added.

“That’s something stressed heavily. It’s so that the child who’s having a problem feels a bit of a social pressure, not in a bad way, but in a way that makes him feel like ‘Hey we’re here for you. Let’s do this as a team,’” he said. “If we are a team, we help each other as a team.”

Jon Estrada’s 6-year-old son Isiah is a newcomer to the program. Estrada sees what Partridge is using wrestling for as nothing but positive.

“If you start them young, it keeps them out of trouble and gets them involved,” Estrada said. “It just builds character, in my opinion. (Isiah) loves it.”

The program is hosting free practice sessions at 6:30 p.m. every Wednesday and Friday throughout the summer at the dance studio located at 123 Plaza. Area youth are invited to participate. Parents just need to supply a case of water and a bottle of disinfectant to aid in the effort of keeping wrestling mats clean.

Wrestlers must have medical insurance, and parents must sign a waiver, Partridge said.

The official season for the team begins in October. The team will host official registration at the end of August for the upcoming season. There will be a fee, which has yet to be decided. Last year, that fee was $75, according to Partridge.

Partridge and his team are also taking advantage of the summer to fundraise for the upcoming season. He’d like to be able to eventually purchase a van so wrestlers could be shuttled to tournaments, which are often in Albuquerque. He’s also hoping to have a few scholarships available for a few wrestlers who otherwise wouldn’t be able to participate.

“There’s a group we can’t reach right now because it’s not financially feasible for them,” Partridge said. “We’re trying to reach out to those children and give them the chance to participate, too.”

Tasha Bustamante’s 4-year-old son Kadeyn McNeil is one of the younger grapplers in the program. She’s grateful he has the opportunity to wrestle and admires what the coaches are doing.

“I think the coaches are working on making a good community overall. They’re not just focusing on wrestling,” Bustamante said. “(The program) teaches kids discipline. It’s just a good group of kids and good group of parents.”

Partridge hopes one day the middle school and high school will offer wrestling again. Until that happens, he wants to keep attracting more young wrestlers to his program.

“We’re going to get bigger, man. That’s my goal,” he added. “Wrestling’s a dying sport and we’re trying to keep it alive.”

For more information on the Socorro Warrior Junior Wrestling program, call 575-650-5666.