Homer Alaska - Sports

Story last updated at 6:06 PM on Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Takedown tourney features Olympian

By Angelina Skowronski
For the Homer News

Young wrestlers gained mat knowledge and life lessons from Olympian Kendall Cross on Saturday. The Takedown Tournament and wrestling clinic held at Homer High School brought more than 80 participants from as far as Glennallen, Anchorage and Palmer.

"Kendall Cross was an amazing technician, a great teacher and excellent motivator," said Homer's wrestling coach and event organizer Chris Perk. "He moved sequentially throughout the moves in a way that helped the kids learn a lot."

Cross' experience in competition and as a motivator is extensive. While studying political science and economics at Oklahoma State University, Cross won the 1989 NCAA championships and was a three-time All-American athlete. He went on to compete in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, and placed sixth, returning four years later to Atlanta, Ga., to win the gold medal in the 1996 Summer Olympics against Guivi Sissaouri of Canada.

After the Olympic win, teaching and mentoring became Cross' focus. He went on to be the assistant wrestling coach at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and Harvard, and founded the Kendal Cross Gold Medal Wrestling Club in Boston geared towards developing young athletes.

During the clinic Cross taught the group of fresh minds and their coaches a few new techniques as well as reinforced traditional ones. "He sent a positive message to the kids; messages about setting goals and action plans and following through with them," described Perk.

The Takedown Tourney on Friday evening proved to be a good introduction for all the participants. With many new wrestlers on the Homer squad, Perk was impressed with what they brought to the mat. One new athlete to look out for, says Perk, is Pedro Ochoa. Just finishing the cross country season, Ochoa came to the clinic as a novice in the sport and won both his matches on Friday.

Coach Perk will be warming up his team these next two weeks by highlighting the instructions and strategies learned during the clinic. Homer's first wrestling match is scheduled for Oct. 14-15 at the Houston Invitational.