PERRY -- The Westfield wrestling program welcomed one of the most decorated wrestlers in American history to Perry on Monday as three-time Olympian Dennis Hall was in town to help prepare the Hornets ahead of their GISA finals appearance this weekend.
This is third season in a row that Hall has visited Westfield.
“Our kids really respond well to him,” Westfield head coach Mike Thompson said. “The last two seasons he’s come down, we’ve won our state tournament, so I hope to keep that trend going.”
Thompson and Hall are both Wisconsin natives, and that’s where the connection to Westfield began. Thompson followed the career of Hall and then decided to contact him after seeing he was still wrestling at the 2012 Olympic trials.
“I looked him up online; he’s got his own wrestling club, and he was willing to come down and help us out,” Thompson said. “It’s been a good three years being in touch with him, and it’s really inspired the program.”
Hall wrestled for the United States in the 1992, 1996 and 2004 Olympics. He took home a silver medal in Atlanta in 1996 and is a 10-time U.S. champion. He hopes to instill a little of the psychological preparation in his students that made him a champion.
“A lot of the things I try to teach is mindset,” Hall said. “If you’ve got the right mindset, then you’re in every match. I try to teach toughness and a never-say-die type mentality. We’re going to fight until the last second rings off the scorer’s clock.”
Athletes from Jones County, Valwood and Perry also were invited by Thompson to participate in the unique training session. He feels its important to the growth of the sport.
“If we can get more schools involved, then it’s going to improve the sport in our area,” Thompson said. “Especially when we’re not competing against one another at the end of the season, it’s just going to make everyone better.”
Hall believes the future of wrestling is bright.
“The thing I like about (wrestling) is that anybody can do it,” Hall said. “You don’t have to be big, and you don’t have to be small. You can be any size. It gives 13 or 14 guys on the mat a chance to compete, whereas other sports you may just get your starters, and that’s it.”