It takes more than a thorough knowledge of wrestling to produce a championship mat squad. For H.D. Woodson High School coach Joe Taylor, he had to introduce the sport in District schools first.
Taylor got the varsity wrestling program started in 1974 and has hustling to keep it going ever since.
"I talk pretty fast. I convince people they should have help us," said Taylor, who has led his team to the three Interhigh championships. "I'll be begging, negotiating if you please, yeah, use that, that sounds good. And I use a lot of my own money. My wife is very understanding."
Taylor doesn't get paids for his efforts - neither do the other five Interhigh wrestling coaches. He gets $400 (most schools receive no money) a year from the city, with which he must pay officials ($20-$25 a match), purchase equipment and other incidentals and meet the various other expenses which go with running a varsity program.
So Taylor goes to athletic stores near the school, 56th and Eads Sts. NE, and asks for equipment donations. He charges each wrestler $9 for incidentals and runs fund-rising campaigns. He struggles to obtain transportation for his road matches. And when the team's bank account comes up short of the estimated $1,000 needed each season, Taylor digs into his own pocket to make up the difference.
Wrestling became a varsity sport in the city only after Taylor personally approached the school board. He said that as a line coach on the football team, he felt responsible for all the kids he cut from the team who tried their best but were too small. "I wrote a proposal to get it (a wrestling program) started in "74," Taylor said. "These kids weigh 119 pounds, they have no way to show their authority. So walk through the halls and give teachers trouble. But on the mat they give show their authority."
Only three schools - Woodson, Balou, and Cardozo - fielded squards for the 1974-75 season, and Anacostia was added to the league the following year. The conference was expanded to seven this season, with Coolidge and Eastern from Interhigh and the Model School for the Deaf. But growth for the sport is painful, if not impossible, without a commitment from the city for substantial funding, according to Taylor.
"Lack of funds - it's hard to move things without money," Taylor said. "In any urban area, they go with the major sports - football, basketball, and track - and in most urban areas, there's a shortage of funds."
Otto Jordan, director of athetics for the city's public schools, said wrestling other sports, which have recently received numerous cuts, for additional funding when the city's school system regains a firm financial footing. He praised the "three or four men" who have put their time in to keep the wrestling program going, and asked them to remain patient until the fiscal pressure is alleviated.
"The thing I like most about it (wrestling) is you can deal with kids of all sizes - the little guy can compete as well as the big guy. It's a natural activity for youngsters," Jordan said."Right now, the whole (school) system is in a crunch. If they (the coaches)can hold on, I'm sure it will grow with the system. We have to retrench this year. The system is operating with a $22 million deficit and athletics aren't a number one priority."
But Taylor doesn't let it get him down; he overlooks the obstacles and instead, works hard to provide a successful program for the kids. And through his efforts, Woodson has registered a 27-0 record against Interhigh opponents, a 30-9-1-overall mark, and picked up all three league tornament titles.
"I dont't believe in problems. I believe in situations," said Taylor, who attended Cardozo High School in Northwest Washington before going to Western Illinois University. "In some kind of way this can be a problem, but it can be dealt with. . . if people stopped being so apathetic."
So after school each day, he and his wrestlers clear out the tables and chairs in the school's activities room and put down mats. And even though his wrestlers often collide with the four concrete posts in the room, Taylor looks at even that as an advantage. "I like when they hit agsainst the cement," he said, noting tha the poles have never been the cause of a major injury. "We don't have that much time. That's where they learn that aggressiveness."
Taylor thinks, and other wrestling coaches in the city agree, that the sports seves as an outlet for many students who would otherwise fet in trouble or drop out of school. He sets a strict code of conduct for team members - they must maintain a 2-point grade average, they may only cut class twice, and if they fight or give teachers problems, they must face a kangaroo court headed by Taylor. And each Friday morning before school, about Friday morning before school, about 20 of the 29 team members attends a reading of the Scioptures and discuss life generaly.
"I can get 25 kids in here, qwork in techniques, etc., by six o'clocxk, they're ready to relax. They're not going to be out on the streets mischief." Taylor said. "I beleive in mental development. But physical development. To see these kids do something constuctive - that's one of the greatest things I teach them in here - this life, you're competing. The girlfriend you want to get, you've got to compet for. The car you want, you have to compete for.
Most of Taylor's wrestlers appreciate the opportunity. "It taught me a lot of discipline. It taught me you don't have to show a lot of muscle third-year wrestler Anthony Chinn, 17, who lives at 3600 Ely Place SE and wrestles at 126 pounds. "You learn to listen a lot. If you can I probably would can learn out there. I probably wouldn't be doing anything (if not wrestling). I'd probably be in trounble. I'm just I got into it."