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

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

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.

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

"Have fun, play," Guerra, 27, tells the children so they don't get bored and so they come back each day after school for more training.

The Kid Chocolate hall named after Cuba's first world boxing champion where they normally train is closed for repairs, so Guerra moved the classes to a nearby park. Because he wanted the children to practice on mats, he also asked the neighborhood sports director about using the local indoor gym and 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, afterward helping 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, but saves it for competitions. His mother, Daylebis Chapi, says she suffers a bit watching her child in combat but comes every day nonetheless. "It helps him to be disciplined, I am happy that this is his passion."

The children are candidates to enter the Sports Initiation School, the first stage of sports training in Cuba, and specialize in wrestling.

Critical thinking challenge: Baseball is very popular in Cuba. So why are these boys wrestling instead?

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COMMENTS (18)
  • TaylorHartman-Ste
    10/27/2014 - 12:01 p.m.

    I think that it is great that people are taking their free time to help these kids learn a popular sport, wrestling. Some people are not as privileged as others.

  • AlexisKrise
    10/27/2014 - 01:49 p.m.

    These boys are standing out in a crowd of baseball lovers, and I couldn't be happier to see this. These boys are taking their preferences and putting them over everyone else's love for baseball. They are being their own kind of person, and even though I don't know them, that makes me really proud. They are doing what they love, and not letting other people hinder what they want in life. They aren't letting people tell them that their goals or dreams are unrealistic. A lot of people could learn a very important lesson from these kids. Everyone has a chance at doing what they love, they just have to grab hold of the different opportunities that present themselves. Best of luck to them!

  • m4rc05
    10/27/2014 - 02:14 p.m.

    i wonder who is the coach and how many kids are in total

  • NW2000Basketball
    10/28/2014 - 08:38 a.m.

    these boys enjoy wrestling more than baseball I guess. baseball isn't for everyone. maybe these boys like wrestling more than baseball, its there choice to like what they want or play what sportt they like.

  • IM2000food
    10/28/2014 - 01:06 p.m.

    the boys in Cuba are wrestling because they have a love for the sport just like Mijain Lopez does. they want to learned how to became like him because they look up to him

  • caitlinv-Man
    10/28/2014 - 03:12 p.m.

    I think that is a great thing that these kids have someone to look up to and something that persuades them to stay active.

  • jacobd-Man
    10/29/2014 - 01:03 p.m.

    For these kids to follow their dreams and pre sue them is amazing and I hope the best to come to the kids and everyone who follows their dream.

  • connork-Man
    10/29/2014 - 01:05 p.m.

    I think thats pretty cool how their so good at a young age. That is so amazing to be able to travel that far and do so well.

  • BColton-Sti
    10/29/2014 - 03:52 p.m.

    I think that it is pretty cool that even though Cuba's Main sport is baseball this little boy still had a person that he looked up to and he still wanted to wrestle. I also taught that it was pretty cool that he had a wrestling uniform that was the colors of the american flag.

  • BColton-Sti
    10/29/2014 - 03:53 p.m.

    I think that it is pretty cool that even though Cuba's Main sport is baseball this little boy still had a person that he looked up to and he still wanted to wrestle. I also taught that it was pretty cool that he had a wrestling uniform that was the colors of the american flag.

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