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)
  • PJuan-Sti
    10/30/2014 - 02:19 p.m.

    That's really cool that the kid won two gold medals. He most be really strong for a little kid. He most have a really good couch.

  • LAvery-Sti
    10/31/2014 - 10:03 a.m.

    I think this is cool what they are doing for the kids. I would be so happy if i could play a sport i always have dreamed about. I think everybody should be able to try a sport let alone play it. Sports help me think and discipline they make me want to do better in life and they always help with everything and anything. When I have a bad day I always do something with sports to help me and it would help with a lot of people I think.

  • MFrancisco-Sti
    10/31/2014 - 10:17 a.m.

    Is cool that the kids won to golden metals. They must have a really good coach to teach them all of those moves. I think that if they keep practicing they will get more and more.

  • EthanFar-Wil
    10/31/2014 - 02:11 p.m.

    I think this is cool what they are doing for the kids. I would be so happy if I could play a sport I always have dreamed about. I think everybody should be able to try a sport let alone play it. Sports help me think and discipline they make me want to do better in life and they always help with everything and anything. When I have a bad day I always do something with sports to help me and it would help with a lot of people I think.

  • GMauricio-Sti
    10/31/2014 - 04:04 p.m.

    I think these kids have a good future. Because they like this sport and they young to the more they are into wrestling the more they would do it.

  • waylon12
    11/02/2014 - 01:21 p.m.

    I think that this is very cool. That kid wants to bring a new sport to Cuba. He is an inspirational person and I think that is great. He is a really good kid because he does that. He is a really good kid and that's why I like him.

  • pia zelada
    11/14/2014 - 09:03 p.m.

    This article is about kids from Cuba, who see wrestling as the best sport that they could practice.His coach Michael guerra, is a young man who makes them work hard, and excercise every day, no matter in the conditions wich they could be living,or the place where they have to train, the kids,the coach and the family of the kids make a big effort to keep on with this sport that make them really happy.

    These boys are wrestling because they love this sport, they feel the passion when they practice and make and effort with their families to be part of it.Also they admire Mijain Lopez a wrestler, that has won two Olympic gold medals in Greco-Roman wrestling, and is one of Cuba's most heralded and popular athletes.

  • 5JacobM
    11/19/2014 - 08:20 p.m.

    I think that it is great that these kids are learning to wrestle at a young age and love it. If this is what they love to do they should be able to do so. Their teacher must be a great guy to take the time and teach these kids to wrestle and maybe become a hero for kids when they grow up like their teacher and like their hero Mijain Lopez.

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