This is Wrestling.
This is just a normal night at Team Thunder wrestling practice. Not a special clinic, no fanfare, no photo-shoot...… Just a normal night at youth wrestling practice.... But for these kids, it was priceless.
Coach Valentin Kalika brought his amazing students Aaron Pico and Yelena Pirizkova in to work out again as he often does. After they finished up with a two hour workout with Coach Valentin, Pico came over and started wrestling with some of the youngsters during live wrestling time.
As Pico stepped in front of each young wrestler, shook their hands, and put his foot on the line ready to start the go.... I enjoyed watching their eyes get wide as saucers with a mix of fear, awe, respect, joy, and thankfulness. I'm sure it was quite intimidating for each of them to spar with world and multi-time national champion Aaron Pico.... But that immediately dissolved with every bit of encouraging physical communication that Pico gave them..... He opened with a big warm smile, he was gentle yet not condescending, technically solid, but still super playful and fun.....he let kids win certain positions just to draw them out and get them to open up more....it was awesome....for them, for me. I was super blessed.
To me, this is a testament to Valentin Kalika's guidance and tutelage. Pico has been raised in Valentin's system, which is very Russian. Valentin has exposed Pico to some of the best wrestling experiences possible on the planet earth. Cheeks has had the opportunity to wrestle with Satiev, Tedeev, and many other world champion and world-class athletes.... And the same way that they treated him, he treated my boys at Team Thunder. I don't even know if Cheeks realizes the impact that it has had on the boys, but I do..... And for this I am forever grateful. I want to publicly recognize this and let everybody know how much I appreciate Valentin Kalika and Aaron Pico, and the huge blessing and benefit that they have brought to Team Thunder. It's absolutely priceless. To me, it's everything that Wrestling should be: discipleship, inspiration, camaraderie, and greatness. It's true greatness on more levels than just wrestling alone. It's passing the torch. I'm so blessed indeed.
At the end of the session, and Pico told the boys "It's my job. It's my job to make sure that you guys are better than I will ever be. You guys are the next generation. I want nothing more than you guys to exceed everything that I ever do. You guys are the next generation of Southern California wrestling, the next generation of AMERICAN Wrestling, the next generation of Olympic wrestling. I want you to be the very best that you can be."
'Thank you' is an understatement.
Head Coach - Churchboyz Wrestling / Team Thunder Wrestling