It is one of the oldest sports in the world, having started thousands of years ago in ancient Greece and later taken over by the Romans. Greco-Roman wrestling has been practiced in many forms through the ages, even in Mississippi, and is an Olympic sport. The one-on-one submission sport fell out of favor in high schools in Mississippi in the mid-1980s but, from this wrestling season – generally recognized as November 1 through the end of January – it is experiencing a resurgence as well. that nine high schools in the state have fielded wrestling teams. (The Mississippi School for the Deaf and Blind has maintained its wrestling program through decades of hiatus.) Locally, North Pontotoc and South Pontotoc high schools compete on the mats. So far, however, the sport has not been established in schools in Lee County or Tupelo. A few wrestling coaches, themselves mat veterans, are working to change that. Brian Fox and Tony Beal run wrestling classes for youth three times a week at the Ultimate Fitness & Mixed Martial Arts Gym on McCullough Boulevard. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings, from 5 p.m. to 5:50 p.m., boys and girls learn the sport of wrestling; they are aged 5 in their early teens and can number as many as two dozen. Since November 1, several of them have competed in club tournaments in Tennessee and Alabama and some have excelled by winning first place medals. Children take sports and competitions seriously but seem to revel in the friendships they have made on the mat; there is a palpable sense of camaraderie in their struggling efforts. Fox, 27, and Beal, 41, are both from Ohio, where wrestling has long been practiced and celebrated. Fox began wrestling as a child and went on to college, high school, and Baldwin Wallace University. After obtaining three degrees, Fox found himself a missionary in Croatia and chose jiujitsu, a sport closely related to wrestling: “I always loved this sport,” he said of international jiujitsu competitions. and struggle in Eastern Europe. Beal, too, was a wrestler in middle school and high school; after graduation, he concentrated on his engineering studies and gave up wrestling. He returned to the wrestling world when his three children – Holly, now 11, Travis, 8, and Addison, 6 – developed an interest in the sport while still living in Ohio. When the family arrived here two years ago, there was no youth wrestling program until Grady Sue Hurley founded the UFM and established the wrestling site in 2020: “My kids are now all competing, ”Beal said of their involvement in the sport. In a recent Facebook post about a competition in Alabama, Beal admitted to reliving, by proxy, some of the wrestling glory he enjoyed as a youth. Fox and Beal both seek to re-establish wrestling as a sport in Mississippi schools; Fox is a founding member of the Mississippi Wrestling Foundation, which is run by a board of directors of 20 former wrestlers and “friends of the sport,” as Fox calls non-wrestlers. The MWF, through donations and sponsorships, provided rugs and uniforms to the nine competing high schools in the state. Fox noted that a premium carpet, which can last up to 20 years, costs around $ 10,000. Uniforms are cheaper. Both men recognize the value of wrestling training and competition, beyond the mat: “I’m in favor of bringing wrestling back to schools,” said Beal, who is director of engineering for Cooper. Tire and attribute wrestling to help them be successful in the industry. College wrestling scholarships are available at many universities. “I thank the fight for who I am today,” Fox said. “It made me physically and mentally difficult.” Local wrestling sponsors are sought after by the MWF. For more information about the organization, see their website at www.sipwrestling.org. For more information on the UFM Junior Spartans / jiujitsu wrestling offerings, call (662) 680-4848.