Bob Saviers and Leah Miller have a passion for amateur wrestling, and they hope to see the sport grow in Juneau.
Forget about the fake wrestling you see on television with body slams and pile drivers. The type of wrestling Saviers and Miller love is an Olympic sport that has been practiced for thousands of years.
Saviers and Miller have teamed up with Chris Crawford, who was a standout college wrestler, to form an Amateur Athletic Union wrestling program in Juneau. The new team will be called the Juneau Maulers, and all of the coaches will be volunteers. The program will be for young wrestlers ages 8 through 19. Adults that want to continue wrestling also would be able to participate. The program is scheduled to start the first week of September with the main season running through May with practices four days per week.
The Amateur Athletic Union, is a nationwide program that sponsors athletic competitions in 24 different sports such as basketball, cheerleading, golf, gymnastics, soccer, football and jump rope. Juneau's best-known AAU team is the Juneau Jumpers, a local jump rope squad that has been successful in competitions. HoopTime basketball is another local AAU program which travels to national competitions.
Saviers said that AAU wrestling participants will travel to events across the United States where they can be seen by some of the top college wrestling coaches in the country. Miller and Saviers said the program will provide young people with more opportunities to be noticed by schools that offer college wrestling scholarships.
Part of Miller and Saviers' motivation for forming an AAU team was that they were unhappy with the programs being offered by local schools. Saviers said he paid $2,400 dollars for his 17-year-old son to wrestle in the high school programs, and students also were required to sell raffle tickets among other things.
"That is acceptable to expect responsibility from athletes, but disposable income being what it is in Juneau these days, we need cheaper avenues with more results than lately, and more participation than in the last few years," Saviers said.
The AAU wrestling program will not run concurrently with the high school wrestling season. Saviers said they didn't want to compete with the high school program, and older students would have the option of doing both programs.
Saviers is a former Crimson Bear and wrestling coach at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School. Miller was an outstanding female wrestler in high school and junior high, and now works for the Department of Transportation. Miller wrestled for five years and was 15-2 during her best season. She also won a southeast championship in the 100-pound weight class while at Floyd Dryden Middle School.
"I'm proof that girls can be just as good as the boys. I've always been a tomboy so I jumped at the chance to compete in a male-dominated sport. It helped save my life as a sport," she said.
Miller's 5-year-old son has become interested in the sport, and she is motivated to help with the AAU wrestling program.
"I knew I always wanted to do something to help the kids. I wanted to promote the sport because I saw what it helped me do in my life," Miller said.
People who want to enroll in the new program or have questions can contact Leah Miller at 780-3679.
Erik Stimpfle is a writer living in Juneau. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.