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Lazor a wrestling teacher this summer

By Brian Paglia

bpaglia@news-daily.com

The Lazor home has a detached garage with a small attic room. The ceiling is slanted, the floor is a wrestling matt and the heat sticks to the flesh. This is Joey Lazor's classroom.

"It's like my wrestling room," Lazor said. "I have all my wresting stuff up there. It's like an attic. It stays nice and hot up there."

In high school, his clients were youngsters just learning the sport. These days, as a rising sophomore at a prestigious Division I wrestling program (Northern Iowa), he tutors wrestlers at Union Grove, where he won two state titles.

Starting Monday, June 7, he'll be in charge, along with two of his Northern Iowa teammates, at Joey DiNino's first wrestling camp as head coach at Ola, which runs through Thursday for K-12 ages.

These camps are staples of a wrestling coach's program. They expose the program to the community and promote a sport that often goes underappreciated in the Southeast.

For DiNino, the camp is the first opportunity to introduce himself and his coaching style to Ola after nine seasons at Union Grove.

"These kids are going to have an opportunity to see how I operate," DiNino said, "and I'll get to see what we're working with. I'm really excited to have the opportunity to see how our guys respond to my system and the way I do things."

For Lazor, it is an opportunity to continue his development as an instructor, to hone teaching skills he hopes to one day put to use full-time.

"I've always loved seeing a kid excel," Lazor said. "Growing up, being like, 'Yea, I taught this kid,' and himexcelleing and being a part of him excelling."

Lazor knew he wanted to become a wrestling coach before he graduated from high school. It was the summer before his junior year at Union Grove. That season, he would go undefeated and win a state title, but he sensed a great demand required of him, greater than his individual performance.

"That's when I put it upon myself to better the team," Lazor said, "to try to make everyone grow so we could get better as a team."

He chose elementary education for a major to become a wrestling coach. Among several offers to wrestle Division I, he chose Northern Iowa, which was founded in 1869 to meet the state's need for an institution devoted to training public teachers.

Though Northern Iowa's coach almost mandated that incoming freshman redshirt to ease the transition into Division I wrestling, Lazor was thrust into the starting lineup. His first match was against Franklin Gomez, the reigning national champion from Michigan State. It was a rough, but exhilirating, start.

"I had a blast," Lazor said. "I had a take-down on him, so I was happy."

Lazor found Division I wrestling just as he expected it: "Hard, tough," he said. "It's a big jump from high school." He struggled to keep his weight down in the 133-pound class. Northern Iowa fired its coach at season's end.

"It's always an adjustment sometimes," DiNino said, "tougher for others, but he's still enjoying himself."

Indeed, Lazor has filled his summer teaching wrestling. After Ola's camp, Lazor will help run one at Union Grove.

"He really enjoys the sport and understands what it does for a person," DiNino said. "He enjoys giving back to the kids."