Meet the young wrestlers of Cuba
Meet the young wrestlers of Cuba Young wrestlers Braimond Sanchez, from left, Raimel Lazaro and Junior Lazaro strike a pose in a park in Old Havana, Cuba (AP photos)
Meet the young wrestlers of Cuba
Lexile: 780L

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In a wrestling suit the colors of the U.S. flag, 8-year-old Yodimiler Arias grapples with a classmate. This is in the scorching heat.

About 20 children are learning to wrestle in a park in Old Havana. When asked why they chose wrestling in baseball-loving Cuba, they shout in unison: "To be like Mijain Lopez!"

Lopez has won two Olympic gold medals in Greco-Roman wrestling, as well as five world championships, and is one of Cuba's most heralded and popular athletes.

Cuba is the island country not far off the southern tip of Florida.

Under the watchful eye of their teacher, former wrestler Michael Guerra, the children run, do squats and practice other moves. Some are barefoot. Others wear sandals or tennis shoes.

"Have fun, play," Guerra, 27, tells the children. He wants them to come back each day after school. Then they can train.

Guerra moved the classes to a nearby park. Then, because he wanted the children to practice on mats, he also asked the neighborhood sports director about using the local indoor gym. He was given permission to do so for two days.

In the park, the children's laughter mixes with the honking of car horns. And the conversations of passersby.

Parents look on. Afterwards, they help clean up, carry supplies or collect money for transportation.

Maibel Arias doesn't miss any of her son Yodimiler's classes. "He likes it and I want to help him with his passion," she said.

She said the American flag wrestling suit was sent by her cousin in the United States.

Salvador Frometa, 7, has a suit given to him by his grandmother in Spain. He saves it for competitions. His mother, Daylebis Chapi, comes every day. "It helps him to be disciplined, I am happy that this is his passion."

The children are candidates to enter the Sports Initiation School. That's the first stage of sports training in Cuba. There, they would specialize in wrestling.

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  • LaVeda
    10/30/2014 - 01:12 p.m.

    thats cool they have a hero that they wanna be like i find it amazing there purse wing there dream way to go guys nice job keep on going ight you will be professional wrestlers just keep working hard

  • ateyal-Orv
    10/30/2014 - 04:13 p.m.

    i think this is good but not because there hurting each other its that they have something to do and it will help them get off the streets of whatever the do bad in Cuba

  • tybreland
    10/30/2014 - 05:37 p.m.

    I think children should have a role model but not a wrestling role model because that's violent but then again its a natural sport they play out there but where i live wrestling isn't a major thing basketball is and our role models are Micheal Jordan or Lebron James and those are good role models because they are not as violent as wrestlers. I mean their a little to small to be trying to wrestle.

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