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South Salt Lake Journal

New South Salt Lake PAL wrestling program a long time in the making

Aug 01, 2018 09:35AM ● By Brian Shaw

New PAL Wrestling Club head coach Anthony Martinez poses with his son Patrick, who will represent the U.S. at the Greco-Roman World Championships in Budapest, Hungary later this year. (Photo/Jerry Silva)

By Brian Shaw  |  [email protected] 

According to PAL Boxing Club head coach Matt Pena, the new South Salt Lake PAL Wrestling Club has been a long time coming. The reason, he says, is rather simple in theory. 

The city in which he serves and has served for many years now is known as a landing spot for refugees from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East—places in which wrestling is not only a popular sport, it is the sport of choice, and has been for centuries. 

“I'm really excited about the wrestling program,” said Pena. “I'm about to lose my mind on that one, because there are two main points here. One is the culture; we have a lot of refugees and there are tons of folks who are from places who traditionally, from a world scene, love wrestling.”  

And so in a way, the manner in which PAL has added the sport to its programs is necessary, according to Pena. For one, it provides area youth yet another avenue through which they can assimilate and feel comfortable here. 

For another, the sport of wrestling is already in their blood, added Pena — which should in time give kids an advantage over other kids who may hail from more affluent areas of the Salt Lake valley. 

“The problem here in America is that when you look at the best wrestling programs, they're usually in the suburbs — on the outskirts of town,” added Pena. “And so it's really hard for inner city kids like ours to develop in wrestling programs.” 

Pena continued, “They may try to go out for their school. But, by then it's too late because there aren't any clubs. Everybody's training in their clubs [in the suburbs] from the time they're five years old, you know, you can't just show up at your high school and think you're going to dominate from the outset — unless you're somebody extremely special. But now we can provide these kids from this population and the inner city with this wrestling club.” 

The program got underway on July 2 with an “Open Mat” at the Central Park Community Center and will continue there every Monday. The program will be coached by Anthony Martinez, whose son Patrick just won the Greco-Roman National Team Trials. Patrick will now represent the United States of America at the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary later this year. 

“The other thing that has me excited about this program,” Pena said, “is that we have a world-class coach—Mr. Martinez, who's also an autism teacher by day—who's agreed to come on and help me out.” 

Finally, added Pena, and probably the paramount reason he's excited about the formation of the wrestling program in South Salt Lake is that kids from the area now have an opportunity to work on their grappling skills with an experienced coach. They can start from an earlier age — presumably giving them a leg, or arm, up on their competition as they mature and presumably enter the highly competitive world of high school wrestling. 

Whereas an athletic scholarship might have been out of reach for area kids who wrestled before and wanted to pursue the sport further, now a future in wrestling for them is very much a possibility. For more information and to register your child for the PAL Wrestling Club, go to or call PAL at 801-412-3227.



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