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Rookie wrestlers impress at state

Morris Thomas, Children of Valor Wrestling Club coach, gives a pep-talk to his 6 and under division wrestlers before the state competition, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Douglas County Event Center in Castle Rock, Colorado. The club placed fifth out of 191 teams. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart)

Morris Thomas, Children of Valor Wrestling Club coach, gives a pep-talk to his 6 and under division wrestlers before the state competition, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Douglas County Event Center in Castle Rock, Colorado. The club placed fifth out of 191 teams. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart)

The Children of Valor Wrestling Club poses for a group photo before the state wrestling competition Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Douglas County Event Center in Castle Rock, Colorado. The rookie team consists of children from Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart)

The Children of Valor Wrestling Club poses for a group photo before the state wrestling competition Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Douglas County Event Center in Castle Rock, Colorado. The rookie team consists of children from Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart)

Ian Grier, Children of Valor Wrestling Club, competes during the state championship wrestling tournament Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Douglas County Event Center in Castle Rock, Colorado. The team, which consists of children from Schriever Air Force Base, took fifth in the competition, with five wrestlers earning medals. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart)

Ian Grier, Children of Valor Wrestling Club, competes during the state championship wrestling tournament Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Douglas County Event Center in Castle Rock, Colorado. The team, which consists of children from Schriever Air Force Base, took fifth in the competition, with five wrestlers earning medals. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart)

Toby Janaros, Children of Valor Wrestling Club, takes down an opponent during the state championship wrestling tournament Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Douglas County Event Center in Castle Rock, Colorado. Janaros went on to earn second place in the 6 and under division weighing in at 50 pounds. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart)

Toby Janaros, Children of Valor Wrestling Club, takes down an opponent during the state championship wrestling tournament Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Douglas County Event Center in Castle Rock, Colorado. Janaros went on to earn second place in the 6 and under division weighing in at 50 pounds. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart)

Morris Thomas, Children of Valor Wrestling Club coach, instructs a wrestler during the state championship wrestling tournament Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Douglas County Event Center in Castle Rock, Colorado. Thomas started the wrestling club 11 months ago at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, and took more than a dozen wrestlers to the state competition. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart)

Morris Thomas, Children of Valor Wrestling Club coach, instructs a wrestler during the state championship wrestling tournament Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Douglas County Event Center in Castle Rock, Colorado. Thomas started the wrestling club 11 months ago at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, and took more than a dozen wrestlers to the state competition. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart)

Tanner Witte, Children of Valor Wrestling Club, pins an opponent during the state championship wrestling tournament Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Douglas County Event Center in Castle Rock, Colorado. Witte earned second place in the novice division weighing in at 92 pounds. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart)

Tanner Witte, Children of Valor Wrestling Club, pins an opponent during the state championship wrestling tournament Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Douglas County Event Center in Castle Rock, Colorado. Witte earned second place in the novice division weighing in at 92 pounds. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart)

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. -- The Children of Valor Wrestling Club earned fifth place overall out of 191 teams at the state wrestling competition, Sunday, Feb. 28, at the Douglas County Events Center in Castle Rock, Colorado.

The rookie club, which comprises 15 children from Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, has only been a program within the Pikes Peak Wrestling League for 11 months.

"I had to basically start building these guys from the bottom, bare-boned basics all the way up to where they are now," said Morris Thomas, Children of Valor Wrestling Club coach.

"The Pikes Peak Wrestling League breaks down into two separate tournaments," said Thomas. "They have the advanced division tournament and then the tournament for first year wrestlers and first year clubs. Our whole team is brand new wrestlers so, we fit right in."

But some would say the wrestling team did anything but fit in, as five of its members placed during the competition.

Kyle Wulf earned the novice division state champion title at 106 pounds. Tanner Witte placed second in the novice division at 92 pounds and Toby Janaros placed second in the 6 and under division at 50 pounds. Hunter Witte earned third place in the intermediate division at 90 pounds, and Braelyn Walker earned third place in the kindergarten through second grade girls division at 66 pounds.

"We came out, we competed and we proved that we are a force to be reckoned with," said Thomas.

The coach and parents agree the wrestlers have made enormous improvements since joining the club last year.

"Most of the kids, to include my boys, are first year wrestlers, so improvement would be an understatement...I think the more appropriate word is transformation," said Jason Janaros, father of wrestlers Jaden and Toby. "Certainly, you can see the fruits of their labor--[they are] stronger, faster, healthier, more technically proficient, able to better defend themselves, but also from the mental, emotional aspect [they are] more confident, disciplined [and have] a better work ethic."

To prepare for the competition, the team faced a tough practice schedule consisting of three, two-hour practices each week.

"They're receptive. The good thing about military kids is they are resilient. You can work them and push them to their limits and they don't have any problems, they just adapt and overcome," said Thomas.

The regular season in the Pikes Peak Wrestling League is now over, but the Children of Valor Wrestling Club will continue to practice for upcoming competitions.

"We're going into now what is called the Olympic-level or off-season," said Thomas. "Kids who don't have a spring sport are welcome to come out and wrestle. We'll attend a couple camps throughout the summer, and then come August, we'll get ready for another pre-season year."

Children ages 3 - 15 years old interested in joining the Children of Valor Wrestling Club can email Thomas at Airman265@gmail.com for more information.

"If kids say they are interested and want to come out and wrestle, I'll take them all," said Thomas. "From the smallest to the biggest, as long as the child and family is willing to put in the work, I have no problem taking on any kid--as many as I can."
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