BOLTON will be represented at the Olympic wrestling competition this summer, but there will be no mat action to keep tabs on.
Instead, Eddy Kavanagh, head coach of Sharples Wrestling Club, will be busy behind the scenes, working in an official capacity ensuring athletes and coaches are sufficiently prepared before they go into action.
It could be a different story at future Games, however, if the local club maintains the successful development that has already started to deliver internationals.
Then Kavanagh could be too busy preparing his own wrestlers for Olympic glory to undertake official duties.
For now, however, he is content to focus on nurturing the talent he already has under his influence while preaching the wrestling gospel around the Bolton area.
He smiles at the suggestion he is some sort of evangelist for the ancient sport – as opposed to the staged showmanship of WWE.
But this year he will hold sessions at around 30 local schools and, if past successes are anything to go by, he will swell his membership ranks at the Sharples club which is based at the YMCA building on Bolton’s Deansgate.
Originally, the club was set up for youngsters but, as they have developed, so the membership has increased, and now they have more than 70 members from juniors as young as five years old through to seniors.
And with every success – Sharples currently have seven wrestlers competing at international tournaments – the club’s name is becoming more established as a growing force in the sport, if not necessarily in its home town.
“Our club is well known nationally, but we’re having to try to raise our profile in the town,”
Kavanagh said, explaining why, in his role as a wrestling development officer, he is spreading the word in the schools of Bolton and Farnworth with funbased sessions that give youngsters a taste of what is a minority sport in this country but is one of the most popular Olympic events across Eastern Europe and Asia.
“We are there in the town centre, accessible to everybody and offering kids a chance to compete in a contact sport that doesn’t cost much money.”
Sharples currently boasts half a dozen British champions. One of the youngest is 10-year-old Malachy O’Rourke, who, after attending a taster session at SS Osmund and Andrew School, joined the club, started to wrestle competitively and last year won English and British junior titles.
At senior level Kavanagh has high hopes for Astley Bridge’s Lawrence Carson, a three-time British champion who was fourth in the Commonwealth Youth Games in India four years ago and who won silver and bronze medals at international events last year. Still only 19 – wrestlers usually hit their peak around at 24-25 – Carson has not yet reached the point of being in contention for London 2012 but as a member of the England senior squad is targeting the Commonwealth Games which will be staged in Glasgow in 2014.
Younger members George Ramm and Matthew Walton medalled at international events in Latvia and Lithuania, respectively, while 18- year-old Kelly Kay – a sixtime British champion – is making a name for herself on the women’s international scene.
The success of the Aspens – father Albert who competed at the 1960 and 1964 Olympics, and son Brian, the 1982 Commonwealth champion who wrestled at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics – once assured Bolton a place on the world wrestling map. Now Kavanagh, who was unsuccessfully nominated by Daniel Robin – the head of wrestling’s Olympic body – to carry the Olympic torch, is hoping to produce a new generation of flag flyers.
“Wrestling is a priority sport as far as Bolton Council is concerned and we get a lot of help from them,” he said.
“And that is due to the past successes of Bolton Olympic Wrestling Club which produced the Aspens.
“But we need to be getting others coming through and I’m now focusing on that.”
The Sharples Wrestling Club gym is open Monday to Friday (9.30am to 9.30pm) with coaching sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays (juniors 6.45pm to 7.45pm and seniors 8pm to 9.30pm for seniors).