What You Need To Know
- Theodore Hunter’s been in the sport of wrestling for more than 60 years
- He’s focused on attracting young Black athletes to the sport as often wrestling is overlooked in the Black community
- Hunter said wrestling teaches life skills and helps athletes learn how to respect one another
- Hunter is the first Black wrestling coach at St. Thomas Aquinas High School and Middle School
Theodore Hunter’s been coaching for just a few years at St. Thomas Aquinas High School and Middle School, but 40 years overall. For Hunter, there’s nothing like it.
“Actually, I love being around young people," Hunter said.
As a kid, Hunter was invited to his first match. Thinking there would be a ring and ropes, he was surprised, but after watching that match, he was hooked. Starting out in South Central Los Angeles and moving on to coach in other places, Hunter said he recognized over time that a number of kids needed role models and a way to stay out of trouble.
He started inviting and picking kids up who took an interest. Seeing the same issues in Ohio, Hunter often stops kids in the hallways and has conversations with them, with hopes of not only getting them involved in wrestling but helping them to excel in other areas of their lives.
“It builds a lot of character or really brings out the character the person already has," Hunter said.
For African Americans, he’s been placing extra emphasis on talking to young students. That’s because he believes the community often overlooks the sport and goes straight for basketball or football.
“But the natural progression for kids is to try to either run or outrun a person or and if it’s two boys, they usually start rolling around and wrestling,” Hunter said. “This is a way they can go from pre school to Ph.D.”
It’s also a sport where they can get full scholarships much easier than other popular sports.
For kids like Jaymier Jenkins and Luke Gordon, getting involved in wrestling has made a world of difference. For Gordon, he sees Hunter as a father figure who is really invested in students succeeding.
So far, Gordon’s grades have gone up and in the sports he participates in, he’s seen his running speeds increase.
Overall, he said he’s “Definitely grown as an individual, mentally… stronger. I feel like I can do anything," Gordon said. "Because I’ve wrestled, it makes everything easier.”
For Jenkins, he’s not only packed on muscle, but it’s encouraged him.
“It’s important to get other people involved in the sport, especially black people to make it more of a universal sport cause for the longest of times I felt like wrestling was more so white people but now I see a lot more Black people, Hispanic people wrestling…a lot more people of color wrestling," Jenkins said.
While the students are grateful for his leadership, Hunter said he wants to keep coaching and drawing in as many students as possible, male and female, around the region to keep making a positive impact.