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Elementary students enjoy free, 6-week wrestling program


Sunnyvale Wrestling Club, in partnership with Sunnyvale School District, launched the first ever Sunnyvale Youth Wrestling League (SYWL) Sept. 12 at five elementary schools, Lakewood, San Miguel, Ellis, Vargas, and Bishop.

Sunnyvale Wrestling Club is providing this co-ed, 6-week program free of cost to third, fourth and fifth graders. Each wrestler will have the opportunity to earn a uniform also free of cost through attendance and effort.

SYWL was co-founded by Sunnyvale School District alumnus, Fremont High School teacher, and wrestling coach, Daniel McCune. He believes the co-curricular program complements classroom curriculum to educate the whole student, providing opportunities for students to learn important life skills like resilience, discipline, work ethic, overcoming adversity, and grit.

A special kick-off event was held Sept. 8 where NCAA Wrestling Champion, 7-year UFC veteran, coach, motivational speaker, and anti-bullying activist, Mark Munoz spoke to San Miguel and Lakewood elementary school students about finding one’s passion and how life choices shape who one is.

SYWL co-founder Daniel McCune, NCAA wrestling champion Mark Munoz and Lakewood Principal Pamela Cheng kickoff the new league.
SYWL co-founder Daniel McCune, NCAA wrestling champion Mark Munoz and Lakewood Principal Pamela Cheng kickoff the new league.

Munoz shared his own personal story of getting bullied as a child, which led him to try wrestling for the first time. He told kids how wrestling eventually led him to learn mixed martial arts and fighting for the UFC.

“I ended up doing it with all my heart, followed my passion, got educated in how to get better at it, and I was actually ranked as high as third in the world,” Munoz said. “And that’s what this program is going to do for you guys.”

In a mock press conference after the assembly, Lakewood Lion “Cub Reporters” asked Munoz how the wrestling program would help kids.

“Wrestling gives you a lot of life applicable skills, what I mean by that is, in wrestling, you have to learn how to compete through every situation that you’re in,” Munoz told the reporters. “So if there’s somebody holding you down, you’ve got to be able to find a way out of that situation, right? Just like in life. Life is the same way.”

Students get to practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays with competitions for fourth and fifth graders held on Fridays against other schools. Practices are play-based. The program is not intended to be for intense competition but rather for introduction to the sport and a building of fundamentals in technical aspects of wrestling and in the habits of wrestlers.

Wrestling Community

Former Lakewood Lion and Columbia Middle bulldog, Daniel McCune, hopes that wrestling will create a community for students to which they can belong into their adult lives as it has for him. While setting up the new youth league, he actually encountered former wrestling teammates and opponents from his youth by chance.

Students pound the mat as they cheer each other on at final wrestling tournament.
Students pound the mat as they cheer each other on at final wrestling tournament.

When he reached out for sponsors, he discovered a wrestling connection at Sunnyvale’s Footwear Etc.—the owner’s son was a former high school teammate on McCune’s Fremont wrestling team. And when he went to print fliers for the league at Alpine Graphics, the employee who helped him formerly wrestled for Milpitas.

“Wrestling is a small community that looks out for and has an unspoken respect for one another that I am looking to expand in Sunnyvale,” McCune said. “It will create community in Sunnyvale to have all of these kids participating in the sport of wrestling and that community will not be infringed upon by the financial status of the families involved. The wrestling community is strong and I hope someday Sunnyvale can have community that is strong as well. Resilience, work ethic, overcoming adversity, are all ingrained in wrestling.”

The Sunnyvale Youth Wrestling League officially wrapped up with Olympian Jake Herbert doing a clinic for the kids on Oct. 23  followed by a final competition.

An Open Tournament was also held Oct. 24 where Bishop Elementary took the title! Both events were held at Fremont High School in Sunnyvale.

To learn more about the program visit or call 408-859-8834.

Contributor Alia Wilson.

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