Dedicated to the mat
Charles Prince, Hartselle Enquirer
Dedication-it's what every coach wants in an athlete. One high school coach in Morgan County thinks he's found the ultimate in dedication in two of the athletes he coaches.
Dennis Smith and Kurt Hamilton drive three days a week to Birmingham to the Alabama Wrestling Club to train year-round. When the high school wrestling season ends until the next one begins, the two make the 140-mile round trip. They train with some of the best wrestlers in the state in anticipation of improving their mat skills.
"When you kids do things like this and give up the things teenagers usually do with their time. It says a lot about them," Corder said. "It says they're dedicated to their sport and they have a drive to be the best."
Hamilton credits Corder for the desire to take up the weekly regime of year-round training.
"He gave me the mind-set," Hamilton said. "Coach Corder told me I needed a lot of work to be as good a wrestler as I wanted to be.
When I heard about wrestling club in Birmingham, I wanted to join and do the extra work to be as good as coach told me I could be."
Smith said he wanted the extra training to achieve his personal goals.
"I could see I wasn't a state championship caliber wrestler," Smith said.
"I wanted to win a state title. It's the biggest reason I wanted to put in the extra work.
"I don't mind giving up playing video games or hanging out with my friends, if I can win a title."
Both Hamilton and Smith finished as state runners-up in 2003 after not placing in the top three in 2002.
Both said the improvement came from the year-round workouts.
"I feel like I'm twice the wrestler I was before I started wrestling year-round," Hamilton said.
"Dennis and I were both ecstatic when we realized how much we had improved and how close we were to being state champion caliber."
"I'm improved 100 percent," Smith said. "I'm wrestling at a whole different level now."
The two Tiger seniors have received offers to wrestle at Cumberland University in Tennessee.
Both said they wouldn't have received the scholarship offer without the year-round practice.
"I never thought I would get the chance to wrestle in college," Hamilton said.
"Without going to the club, I wouldn't even be close to being good enough to getting a scholarship."
Corder agrees the extra work is they reason the pair has a future in the sport beyond high school.
"If they were seven as wrestlers before they started wrestling year-round, they are nines now," Corder said. "Doing all the extra work in the off season has really impressed me.
"If they hadn't gone to year-round workouts they wouldn't be going to wrestle in college."
They both said their dedication comes from their desire to see the Tigers each the top.
"Coach told us if we did this we would get something special out of it," Hamilton said.
"Being a state champion would be special and it would make all the effort worth while."
"I think about being a state champion everyday," Smith said.
"In fact I think about it several times each day. It's what keeps me working."