WRESTLING: Stomping Grounds - Walker brings his passion to the sport

FRONT ROYAL — Many current area wrestlers have likely never heard of the Wildcat Stomp.

The stomp used to be the signature rallying cry during Warren County wrestling matches back in the day - in the late 90s and early 2000s.

When a Wildcat grappler was on the mat and needed a little encouragement or support, the Warren County faithful would begin stomping their feet in the bleachers.

It was a loud and affective device that became well-known throughout state wrestling circles.

Beloved by some, hated by others.

The stomp was created by Thomas Walker, then a wrestling dad and father of Warren County wrestler Thad Walker, and then later his younger brother Trevor.

A big supporter of area wrestling, the New Jersey transplant, tragically died in a boating accident with his two sons along the North Fork of the Shenandoah River at the old location of the Riverton damn.

And although the Wildcat Stomp is rarely heard, if at all, Thad Walker is making sure that he gives back to the sport he loves by offering area wrestlers hands on training at three different locations.

"I started Walker Wrestling three seasons ago out of my moms basement when I realized how many snow days the schools were having," said Walker, a 2003 graduate of Warren County. "Guys were losing mat time that they needed to compete at the level and goals that they had."

Walker, a second-generation wrestler, never medaled at the state level, mainly because of injuries, but little brother Trevor as a multi-all-state medalist for Skyline - finishing as high a state runner-up.

Now Thad Walker's daughter, Pyper, has begun showing interest in the sport he loves.

"That alone made me want to give her every opportunity to so so," Walker said. "How better than to have three wrestling rooms of our own at this point."

Walker recently opened the Brickhouse in downtown Winchester, and last week on Main St. in Front Royal, working with former teammate Billy Shannon, who along with co-owner Robert Huppman run the Riverbend Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy in the loft above the Daily Grind.

"Our biggest goal is to get kids on the wrestling mat," Walker said. "Wrestling is the greatest sport on earth, and it has so much more to offer to everyone who participates in it than just trophies."

Walker says that the sport has created some of the most driven people in the world and that, "Everyone should have the opportunity to find what they're truly capable of and wrestling will do that."

Walker and his coaching staff have plenty of experience and knowledge to offer up the young wrestlers in their classes.

Walker, who started wrestling in kindergarten in New Jersey, wrestled for the Wildcats and in numerous off-season national tournaments.

Walker has helped coach the Warren Mat-Cats, Warren County Middle School, volunteers with the Mason Dixon state champion Raptors youth program run by Skyline coach Matt Keel, and served as Keel's assistant for three years when Skyline first opened in 2007.

Walker is also an active member of the Virginia Woman's Wrestling board.

Former Skyline wrestler Shane Smith is Walker's main assistant. Smith was an all-state Greco and Freestyle and a 3 time All-American.
Former Warren County teammate John Taylor also assists and was a three time all-state grappler.

Shannon, a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu and another former teammate of Walker helps out as well as Joe Becker, a former amateur Mixed-Martial Arts fighter and current Mat Cats assistant coach.

All of Walker's coaching staff, including himself, are USA Wrestling certified and have passed intensive background checks.

Walker Wrestling's focus in on younger wrestlers and those wanting to begin the sport, but also helps current high school wrestlers looking to maintain their edge.

"Walker Wrestling helped me get back to my winning self after my surgery," said Strasburg High School four-time state champion Nic Campbell. "They were a crucial part to my success."

Walker also worked with Warren County two-time state champion Zach Beckner as well the past several years.

"Walker Wrestling is great and Thad's a great coach," Beckner said. "He has always pushed all of his wrestlers to be their best. More importantly, he's not just a coach, he's a friend as well. I'd recommend it for wrestlers of any age."

Kelly Ludke, who has two sons working with Walker Wrestling says that the overall experience is a very positive one.

"The best thing about Walker Wrestling is coach Thad builds my boys up while also providing intense training that pushed them to do their best," Ludke said. "And in turn feeds their love for wrestling."

Garrett Mohr, an 11-year-old who won a Mason Dixon and Youth Wrestling state champion is proof that the training received from Walker Wrestling is paying off.

"Champions need three things," Garrett's dad Michael said. "Dedication, lots of hard work and passion - and my son has found that with Walker Wrestling the past three seasons."

Walker says the future of wrestling is on a big up swing in the area, with several large youth wrestling organizations helping to grow the sport.

"The future is looking great with clubs like (Raptors, Mat-Cats, Willy Walters) with bigger participation numbers than ever," Walker said. "Wrestling is one of those sports where you have to wrestle the best to be the best, and as a private club we don't have favorites here. We have wrestlers from every club in the area and every high school in the area.

"The ability to practice on neutral ground is an amazing help to the kids."

Walker Wrestling avoids the factory style of wrestling training, instead focusing on smaller groups.

In Winchester for example, Walker says the club keeps the groups to level of between six and eight. And most practice sessions are very affordable, often in the $10 range.

And Walker still runs individual sessions out of his mom's basement.

"I'm so excited for Walker Wrestling," said Thad's mom Cylinda Walker. "The kids love Thad and he's very good with them. I'm sure his dad is stomping for sure."

When told of his moms thoughts, Walker simply said, "I like to think so."

For more information about Walker Wrestling, visit their Facebook page, or by email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or by calling Walker at 540-683-1024.

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