Thompson Wrestling Sees Growth As They Capture 4th Straight Duals Championship, Build girls program
When he took over youth wrestling in Alabaster, Shawn Weltzin already had a standard in mind for his program. Newly married and fresh out of UT-Chattanooga, he was eager to begin something special.
“I️ promised the booster club. I said that we would win a state title in the next five years or I️ would step down because I’m not doing it right.”
He insists he would have indeed stepped down, but fortunately, the Warriors won that title just four years later so the world may never know.
Now more than 15 years at the helm at Thompson and multiple state championships, Weltzin has realized that standard. He’s also come full circle as many of the kids in his first youth programs are now sparring on the varsity level.
Coach Weltzin acknowledges the incredible support he and his staff receive from the Alabaster City Schools system and how that support has helped to grow the program and led to its successes over the years.
“The school system has basically bent over backwards for athletics and our wrestling program,” says Weltzin. “I️ don’t think there’s anything we’ve needed or asked for that hasn’t happened or that they’ve gone out of their way and handled.”
The Warriors now set their sights on their fourth consecutive duals state championship and the motivation remains high.
“I think every year has a different feel and a different animal to attack,” says Weltzin. “Last year when we won (state) duals, we ended up losing the traditional title so I think that’s in the back of our minds this year and Vestavia’s got a lot of good guys. Both teams are going to be tough and hopefully it’ll be a nice dog fight and we’ll see who comes out on top.”
Despite advancing to the championship round, the coaching veteran believes there’s still another level the Warriors can attain this season.
“I think we kind of got ahead of ourselves and our team was looking for the next round instead of the round in front of us,” said Weltzin. “It happens in sports all the time and you can’t overlook anybody because every person you match up against wants to knock your teeth in.”
The Warriors are typically a well-traveled bunch, going to tournaments across the country, which was severely limited during the pandemic last season. Coach Weltzin and his staff are happy to get back out there and help the kids get opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise only wrestling at home.
They already have two wrestlers committed to play at the next level in Yanni Vines and James Latona, but have several more who are looking to continue their careers in college.
“College coaches watch the live streams of these tournaments and we’ll get calls and e-mails while we’re there saying they like the way our kids wrestle,” says Weltzin. “A lot of it is for their future and exposure like that is the only way for some of these kids who don’t wrestle year-round.”
Sports oftentimes can keep kids focused in a time of their lives when it’s easy to become distracted with life and the extraneous factors therein. It’s personal for Weltzin because he lived it.
“It gave me a lot of accountability to keep my grades up and do things right,” says Weltzin. “With wrestling you had a whole different lifestyle factor with maintaining your weight and workout regimen. It’s also what helps your succeed in school.”
Every new year has its challenges, and on top of those associated with the pandemic, Coach Weltzin has been hard at work training up the new girls wrestling program and helping lead the process to get the sport sanctioned for the first time this coming spring.
Girls had to wrestle boys in this initial pre-sanction period and everyone had to grow through that.
Also, he not only has his son, Jordan, on the team, but also his daughter, Lynleigh. However, in that short time the program has seen exponential growth and will bring nearly the entire girls roster to state duals.
“We’ve tripled the numbers in one year from what we had before,” says Weltzin. “This year we had 21 girls come out and 18 of those are going to be in the state tournament Saturday. Seven of those are high schoolers and the rest are competing at the middle school level.”
41 schools will be represented at the state tournament this year and as Coach Weltzin sees growth in his program he also sees it in himself and the rest of his coaches.
“It’s a lot different for me personally, because my daughter’s on the team, but really wrestling is wrestling. It’s just a bunch of moves,” says Weltzin. “I️ had to learn how to talk through things a lot more. They tend to be more verbal. And if you talk to my wife you know I’m not a verbal person. But hopefully it’s making me a better coach. That’s what I️ can hope for and that’s how the rest of our staff feels about it.”
Years after the Shelby County native returned to his old stomping grounds, Shawn Weltzin continues to see an upward trajectory of his program. More success is sure to follow.