A night to remember for Perry youth wrestlers

Sean Cordy, Correspondent
Special to the Chief
New high school head coach Chris Dardanes addresses the parents on Tuesday, Aug. 3 after the two-day Perry youth wrestling camp wrapped.

Not many campers can go home and tell their parents about going to a chicken coop and be excited about it. But for 50 young Perry wrestlers, that's precisely the memory that will stick around for years to come and hopefully encourage a new generation of Bluejays attending the annual Perry Wrestling Camp on Monday and Tuesday.

For many young athletes, going to camp is just an item on the checklist. Go to camp, run some drills, listen to a guest speaker and hopefully some of that experience pays off at practice or in a game. This year's Perry youth wrestling camp was more of an experience, new high school head coach Chris Dardanes said Tuesday after the two-day camp wrapped.

"You're trying to be the best possible human being you possibly can. Having the kids around with other like-minded kids," Dardanes said to a crowd of parents the final day. "This is going to go a long way and into the rest of the season."

Rather than hold a traditional camp with just a couple of sessions spread over a few days, the group stayed together overnight just outside of town for a full bonding experience on top of the tips and tricks learned along the way on the mats for two days.

And time on the mat was different than in years past. Rather than the comfort of the new multipurpose facility, the group had the raw experience of working together under more creative circumstances on a farm which Dardanes compared to the Field of Dreams.

"We got the privilege to come to the high school but they ended up sleeping out there," Dardanes said. "We put a movie out. Built a fire around the area and just hung out. Had some good food and stayed in the chicken coop on some cots for a little sleepover last night.

"When you've got campfire talks and actinides, the National Guard helping, and all those extra things. A kid will really learn and just grow up a little bit."

As for the upcoming high school season, Dardanes hopes that this week's camp helped set in place the middle school team to join the varsity squad down the road. Dardanes has a rich history himself as he was the nation's top-ranked wrestler at 133 pounds in the 2016 at the University of Minnesota and was a four-time All-American. He later joined the coaching staff at both Minnesota and the Hawkeye Wrestling Club.