By Joey Gelman
Wrestling continues to be a growing sport within CPS and the focus on skill development was on full display this summer, as the District hosted Wrestling Summer Camps at Chicago Academy and Curie High School for students in grades 5-12.
The programs totaled over 100 CPS students, as they came each week for in-depth skill instruction from key CPS wrestling coaches and Beat the Streets wrestling instructors.
The importance of growing the sport of wrestling equitably across the District has been a priority over the past few years, as in 2022, the Chicago Public League and Illinois High School Association (IHSA) not only hosted boys competitions, but the first-ever girls City and State Championships.
The summer wrestling programs are a part of the CPS Summer Sports Skills Camps, now just completing their third consecutive year, providing free summer sports programming District-wide.
Rick Alboyd served as this year’s camp director for wrestling, and brought with him 32 years of coaching experience both within CPS and across the country. He was a three-time city champion, a four-time state qualifier and one-time state placer at Austin College and Career Academy High School. Alboyd’s teams produced city champions and state qualifiers as he looks to continue to teach the next generation of future wrestlers.
“The summer camps give kids a chance to grow and gives them more time on the mat to gain more experience,” said Alboyd. “ We want to open more doors for those who want to learn more about wrestling.”
An important element to the continued growth of wrestling with CPS are the programs that are now offered at the elementary level through the CPS SCORE! Program, the official elementary athletics league for Chicago Public Schools. Currently, CPS offers both girls and boys wrestling at the elementary level each winter and many of those students, new and experienced joined the wrestling programming this summer.
“We got a lot of kids from the SCORE! Program and elementary programs that were beginners and new to the sport,” Alboyd said. “ They had a lot of fun and we built good foundations for them to experience wrestling first hand. It was a win for us… the best thing ever.”
And while some continue to focus on the boys’ side of the sport, it’s the increase in participation and excitement surrounding the girls sport that is seeing programs continue to grow.
“Girls are starting to take over the sport,” said Alboyd. “If I’m the first one to say it, you heard it from me first… their craft has gotten better… and that’s a good thing for wrestling.”
Rickover Naval Academy won the first-ever Chicago Public League Girls Wrestling City Championship in 2022, followed by impressive finishes by Bowen-graduate Monica Griffin and current Curie wrestler Aaliyah Grandberry at the IHSA State level. Grandberry also just finished in 5th place at the US Marine Corps USAW Women’s Junior National Freestyle Championships in Fargo, North Dakota as she was one of a handful of CPS girls wrestlers to make the trip to Fargo.
Grandberry and those other wrestlers also participated in this year’s camp, providing inspiration for the up and coming wrestlers.
“We have girls that competed at Fargo that are in this camp…The girls see that they have something to look forward to and grow towards… their eyes are open big as they try to push to that level.” Alboyd said.
Wrestling at the elementary level and high school level will begin once again this winter as students continue to take the skills they learned at camp into their respective seasons.
Alboyd’s words of advice:
“ Don’t stop… keep working on your craft… keep working to get better. Wrestling builds strong character and integrity. You can take that into competition and in the classroom in order to be successful.”