The Spartan Mat Club didn’t start out as a youth wrestling gym, but over the course of time, it grew into one.
Many of the wrestlers that attended the facility in north Fort Worth had younger siblings that often had to tag along for practice for high school-level elite wrestlers. That turned into the sport growing at the youth level.
That comes with good and bad.
The good, obviously, is the growth of the sport. The bad side of it is the need for wrestling shoes for many of these wrestlers.
“We’re having a little wrestling league so there will be 60 new kids next week and not one of them have a pair of (wrestling) shoes,” said Leslie Bedford, who owns the gym with her husband Ray. “I want them to feel special and get those shoes on and they don’t care they aren’t brand new shoes. They love them because they tie up high and are super cool and make them a wrestler.”
The gym has put out a call for help in filling up the loaner shoe program.
Just inside the entrance, there is a storage shelf with youth wrestling shoes but the Bedfords know they will need more with the influx of interest in the sport in the Lone Star State.
She notes that finding shoes in a football-frenzied state is kind of tough. Sometimes friends run into some youth shoes at retail stores and will call to let her know so she can get them.
Other shoes on the loner rack have come from kids that have worked out in the gym and their feet have grown — a costly factor most parents know about with any child.
“When they’re little they grow out of them before they use them,” Bedford said. “So I have a rack of youth shoes that we allow them to kind of try it out a couple of times.”
Bedford said the gym will take donations from youth or adult shoes however anyone wants to provide: mail them, drop them off or just look for the club at wrestling tournaments and she will put them in a backpack.
“We have hundreds of little kids coming in here and maybe they don’t compete and they’re away from their screen for an hour,” Bedford said. “They’re doing something good. They get sweaty and have fun and and they’re learning the foundation and maybe they won’t compete now but maybe when they go into middle school or high school. They will and that will give them a sport to do.”