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East Ridge head wrestling coach Hans Horning (top right) brought in three former University of Minnesota All-American wrestlers to help instruct during the first-ever Raptor Wrestling Camp at East Ridge High School.

Grappling with the basics: East Ridge holds first summer wrestling camp

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East Ridge head wrestling coach Hans Horning took advantage of some previous networking when he decided to put on a summer camp for the first time.

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Last week, Horning brought in three former University of Minnesota All-American wrestlers to help instruct during the first-ever Raptor Wrestling Camp at East Ridge High School. Former Gopher greats Matt Nagel, Zach Sanders and Jayson Ness each taught sessions at the camp, which was broken into two groups -- one for high school wrestlers and one for youth wrestlers.

"I wanted to start a camp to get our kids in the room over the summer and not have to break the bank to do so," Horning said. "With many novice wrestlers in our program we need to emphasize exactly what the Gopher wrestlers were preaching -- get in the room, learn technique, stay in shape and keep wrestling. It worked out great. I am very pleased with the camp and will look to continue it next year and hopefully grow it as well."

In its first go-round, the camp drew 20 high school wrestlers from five different schools and 11 youth wrestlers from around the area.

"What I really liked about the camp is that much of what was taught were the same things we already do in our room so the kids got to make that connection to our program," Horning said. "Plus, a lot was new technique that the kids got to learn and add to their arsenal. I really think that made our camp connect with the kids."

Horning said there are not many summer wrestling camps in Washington County, but there are similar camps at Apple Valley, Augsburg, Eastview and Hastings.

"There are numerous summer camps but none for such a reasonable price as ours was," Horning said. "Other places will use camps as fundraisers. We were just trying to offer a good technique camp for our wrestlers and hoped to break even."

For the kids involved, what likely stood out most about the camp were the guest coaches, who Horning has gotten to know through the wrestling community. Before coming to East Ridge, Horning was an assistant coach at Pierz High School. He also coached wrestling at BOLD, Waseca and Zimmerman high schools and was an assistant coach at the University of Minnesota-Morris for two seasons. In addition, he's also been a Minnesota high school wrestling referee.

"I think it was really great for the kids to experience that level of commitment up close," Horning said. "With our small numbers, the kids got plenty of one-on-one time with the Gopher wrestlers."

A 2012 graduate of the U of M, Sanders was a five-time state champion out of Wabasha-Kellogg High School and was named Minnesota Mr. Wrestling in 2007. In college he was a four-time All-American for the Gophers. He said he started wrestling when he was 5 years old. Sanders said he works at multiple camps every summer as a job while in school. He said he's going to graduate school next fall and will continue training in hopes of making the Olympics in 2016. Beyond that, he said he'd like to get into coaching.

"A lot of people helped me get to where I am today, so it's good to be able to give back a little bit," Sanders said. "It's nice to be able to help the community grow and help the sport of wrestling in general. I really enjoy it and it's something I'll probably do for a long time."

Nagel, Sanders' friend and former teammate, helped bring him and Ness to the camp. In addition to earning All-American honors, Nagel was a five-time state champion at Frazee High School and is a current assistant coach at Concordia College of Moorhead, where former Raptor wrestling standout Nick Bachmann currently wrestles. Ness, a Bloomington native, was a two-time state champion in high school, was a four-time All-American and a national champion for the Gophers in 2010. He also won the prestigious Dan Hodge Trophy in 2010; it's given each season to the nation's best college wrestler.

Horning said the former Golden Gophers "brought a lot to the table."

"The amount of success they have had at the high school and college level speaks volumes about the technique they showed," he said. "If it worked for them, it can work for our kids."

As a wrestler, Horning was All-State for Willmar High School in 1990 and wrestled in college for two years at Mankato State University and two years at the University of Minnesota-Morris.

Horning said he hoped what the Gopher greats had to say about being successful would stick with the kids who attended the camp.

"Their comments about learning as much as you can, about repetition, repetition, repetition, and about always having to work to get better hit home with the kids," he said. "They also showed a great deal of technique that we show to our kids. That made an impression on the kids that we are teaching them the same stuff college wrestlers are using, plus they also showed a great deal of stuff that was new to the kids so that was great for the kids to try and learn."

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