The coaches know these moves, Gene Mills notes. But they don’t have all the details.
“The details make all the difference.”
Affectionately dubbed “Mean Gene,” the former collegiate and international wrestling champ with more than 1,300 career victories looked to pass along plenty of those details as part of a five-day camp in Sequim last week.
More than three-dozen youths of varying ages, hailing from Sequim, Port Angeles and Port Townsend as well as Sumner and Cashmere looked for tips on improving their mat moves from Mills, a two-time NCAA champion who still holds the collegiate record with 107 pins.
“I went to camp when I was in high school; I was bored out my skull,” Mills said on July 14.
“I said to myself [that] if I ever did this is it’d be a fun experience where you learn some great moves.”
The visit was Mill’s second Sequim camp in as many years, brought about through a connection between Mills and Sequim photographer Randall Tomaras. Son of Bill Tomaras, known as the “Father of Wrestling” in Washington state, Randall knew Mills from years photographing and writing features about the 1980 U.S. Olympian and three-time World Cup title holder.
Sequim high varsity coach Chad Cate said another camp that Mills had scheduled fell through and he called at the right time.
“This is what we call a technique camp,” Cate said. “Our mission in Sequim is to build skills and fundamental techniques.”
“It absolutely helps me as a coach, too.”
Joining Mills for an appearance was American wrestling legend Mark Schultz, a three-time NCAA, Olympic Games and two-time World champion. Schultz was unable to participate in the full camp because of an illness, organizers said.
“He made an impact by simply showing up,” Cate said.
Camp attendees included a number of Sequim High grapplers, as well as 152-pound state 4A champ Cody Miller of Sumner and state placer Mya Herrera of Cashmere.
Mills, who hosted a week-long camp in New York the week prior, is scheduled to host camps in California this week, followed by single-day events in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Florida before the month is out.
“The progression they’ve made from Monday is incredible,” Mills said, looking over the gymnasium packed with boys and girls from elementary ages through late teens.
They obtain the skills here but the question is, he said, will they retain them when it comes to compete?
“That’s why it’s important for the coaches to go over [these moves] again and again,” Mills said.
“That’s why I film everything,” Cate said.