Mad Dawg Wrestling in Burnet positioned for success on the mats
An idea to keep a couple of young male athletes busy and in shape after football season has grown into an organized sport that includes both boys and girls ages 5-16 with an eye on competitions and scholarships. Mad Dawg Wrestling started shortly after the youth football season ended in November 2020, not at a local school but at Mad Dawg Fitness in Burnet, where gym owner Greg Lopez and wrestling coach Kevin Beers hatched their plan.
“We had the opportunity to get these kids more involved,” Beers said. “If you (don’t play another sport) after football, you’re almost waiting an entire year to play. We wanted to help them prepare, for mental toughness. It turned out bigger than we expected.”
The first two members were Beers’ nephew Avery and Lopez’s son Carter, who were Burnet Youth Football teammates. Beers decided to ask the Mad Dawg Fitness owner about using his gym at 1800 Texas 29 West for practices. Lopez said yes immediately.
“Growing up I would have loved to have had a wrestling program,” Lopez said.
Even with the added pressure of COVID-19 restrictions, the Mad Dawg team was able to enter into recreational competitions within a month of forming. They competed in December in Lampasas, Cedar Park, Austin, and Georgetown. By the end of the wrestling season, 30 youths were part of Mad Dawg Wrestling, including girls.
Eight-year-old Adylin Taylor, who was a football cheerleader, said she joined the team after a friend invited her and because she “just likes fighting.”
“It has helped me with not getting too mad,” she said. “I put my anger on the mat. I don’t know how to say it; I feel like I’m not annoyed anymore.”
Sixteen-year-old Ashley Andujo, who stands 5 feet 5 inches and competes in the 115- to 120-pound weight division, wasn’t looking to join the team — she was simply watching her 10-year-old brother, Josh, practice. But she couldn’t say no to trying the sport when coaches invited her. She discovered she enjoyed it more than she anticipated and credits her coaches for taking the initiative since she was “a little shy” about asking them to join.
“I thought it would be a good physical challenge,” she said. “It’s something I’ve always been interested in since I was young.”
She fell in love with it instantly.
“People don’t normally think I’m a wrestler; they underestimate me,” she said. “It has helped me to start being more confident and not overthink what I’m doing.”
Self-confidence is just part of the benefit, according to Beers, who knows firsthand how wrestling can help athletes. He took up the sport in sixth grade along with football. He competed in both sports until he graduated from Dallas Skyline High School. He played defensive end at Fort Hays State University, where teammates went from the gridiron in the fall to gym mats in the spring.
“Everybody who was an offensive or defensive linemen or linebacker was a high school wrestler,” Beers said. “Our wrestling coaches would have the wrestlers do our offseason workouts and vice versa. It helps with explosiveness and it teaches body mechanics.”
Lopez, who trains young athletes for a variety of sports, including football, certainly understands.
“Shooting off the line is the same way you shoot off in wrestling,” Lopez said.
Football also benefits from wrestling. Wrestlers are taught to keep their heads up when competing, which is something football coaches now teach their players for safety.
“(Today), you can’t put your helmet in others,” Beers said. “When we were kids, we were taught to lead with the crown of our heads. You can’t mention that stuff anymore.”
In wrestling, the athletes always keep their heads up to prevent injury.
“You have to be able to control your body in space,” Beers said. “They (athletes) have to understand the mechanics of the body.”
As a new recruit to the sport, Beers’ nephew Avery Beers, 11, said he was surprised at how much wrestling has helped him.
“I like the activity of it,” he said. “I like being involved in wrestling. You get tougher for the other sports I play. You have to be mentally tough.”
Lopez’s son Carter Lopez, 11, also studies jujitsu. His goal is to land a wrestling scholarship. He loves the sport for how it helps him physically.
“It calms me down sometimes and helps me with discipline at home and for my coaches,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. It helps in football with the legs. You have to practice longer so you can be conditioned for three-minute (wrestling rounds).”
Now in its second year, Mad Dawg Wrestling plans to join USA Wrestling, the governing body of the sport, which will give the athletes access to other facilities, tournaments, and health insurance. Wrestlers began practicing in October, Beers said.
“It was amazing to see all the kids who showed up,” Lopez said. “It was pretty exciting. I had no clue (what to expect), but I always wanted a wrestling program. To have all those kids back there was amazing.”
1 thought on “Mad Dawg Wrestling in Burnet positioned for success on the mats”
As a 61 year old woman, l support the sport of wrestling for youngsters. Had it been available to me, l would have participated without hesitation. What a great opportunity for girls and boys today.
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