Five years ago, the Legends of Gold Regional Training Center (RTC) was established in Beresford, South Dakota, with a goal of helping aspiring freestyle and Greco athletes achieve their goals at the international level. Now, Legends of Gold is taking this goal a step further by establishing, with an endorsement from USA Wrestling, an Olympic Development Academy (ODA). The Legends of Gold ODA is aimed at athletes in grades 7-12 that want to focus on the international styles.
Training younger athletes presents additional challenges compared to those at the Senior level. Education and mentorship are vital to developing well-rounded people who also, hopefully, go on to do great things on the mat. Student-athletes at the ODA will live at the Legends of Gold facility, attend the local high school, and receive training in areas such as entrepreneurial life skills, financial responsibility, mental and emotional skills. The goal is not only to produce outstanding wrestlers but to make sure those wrestlers are prepared to succeed in all aspects of their life.
The first group of athletes being recruited in 2017 will be all Greco-Roman with men’s freestyle to follow in 2018, and women’s freestyle in 2019. The ODA recently announced their first signee, Fargo All-American, and Super 32 champion Kelly March from Canton, South Dakota. March and the other initial class of competitors “will have their own training cycle based on a curriculum that has been developed with USA Wrestling. We will have US National team coaches circulating on campus every month and will also be taking trips to the OTC to train multiple times throughout the school year. We will also be working with the South Dakota State coaching staff (Bono, Reader, and Schopp) monthly to provide great senior level coaching to all our athletes. Our focus will be on the development of high school athletes with the main goal being for them to leave here after their senior year ready to compete at the Senior level”, according to Legends of Gold CEO Terry Pack, himself a former NJCAA national coach of the year.
The ODA has also secured a partnership with Sanford POWER and the Sanford Sports Science Institute to provide their athletes state-of-the-art facilities and customized training plans tailored to the individual needs of each wrestler. In addition to advancing their wrestling skills, ODA student-athletes will have the opportunity to become bigger, faster, and stronger which, of course, will give them the chance to be even better on the mat. Off the mat, the ODA has agreements in place with local colleges to ensure that their student-athletes have the opportunity to push themselves off the mat as hard as they will on it.
With the endorsement of USA Wrestling, Legends of Gold is attempting to build a place where prodigious young wrestlers can hone their skills, prepare for Olympic glory, and learn the skills they need to excel at life. They will be exposed to the USA Wrestling staff, have the opportunity to wrestle internationally, and do it all within a system that is specifically designed for their benefit. Wrestlers who want to focus on freestyle or Greco will no longer need to spend most of the year competing in folkstyle. This in and of itself is a victory. If the program starts churning out the next generation of stars for Team USA, expect this idea to take off.