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Free wrestling clinics ongoing at DYWA Youth Center

Aspiring wrestlers from around the territory were at the DYWA Pago Pago Community Youth Center yesterday morning to take advantage of the free wrestling clinics being conducted by Alex Ramirez (back row far left), an educator and high school wrestling coach from southern California.  [photo: Blue Chen-Fruean]Two of the youngest participants who showed up yesterday for the free wrestling clinics being held at the DYWA Pago Pago Youth Center and taught by visiting coach Alex Ramirez. [photo: Blue Chen-Fruean]DYWA Deputy Director Pa'u Roy Ausage with Alex Ramirez, a volunteer wrestling coach from southern California who is in the territory conducting free wrestling clinics for locals at the Pago Pago Community Youth Center. [photo: Blue Chen-Fruean]

Alex Ramirez shares the same vision as American Samoa Wrestling Association (ASWA) President Irene Kane. That is, to develop the sport of wrestling in the territory and motivate the kids to become physically fit student athletes.

"It's not just about getting on the mat and wrestling," Ramirez told Samoa News yesterday. "The goal is to get these kids to learn the basics and develop their skills so they can have options in the future."

Kane echoed the same sentiment. "We want the kids to learn from people who know what they're talking about, people who can teach them the basics and inspire them to work hard."

In partnership with the ASWA and the Sports Development Program of the Department of Youth and Women's Affairs (DYWA), Ramirez arrived in the territory Monday night and will be leading the three-day clinics which are open to the public and free of charge.

Ramirez, 26, is an educator for the Los Angeles Unified School District and works with special needs children at Bishop Alemany High School in Mission Hills, CA

He has been wrestling since the tender age of 5 but he never got the chance to see action in college because of numerous injuries he sustained during his high school years.

In addition to being a high school wrestling coach, Ramirez is also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of PRIMAL, a clothing brand and wrestling club.

This is his first time conducting a clinic internationally, although he said there are plans to carry out a similar program later this year in Mexico.

When asked why he chose to come to American Samoa, of all places, Ramirez explained that there is a high concentration of Polynesians within the Los Angeles area and there was always talk about offering wrestling clinics either in American Samoa or Tonga.

Discussions have finally become reality.

"The main purpose of all this is to get kids — and coaches — to learn new techniques and experience something different," he told Samoa News. "The goal is to get these kids to understand and appreciate what wrestling is, and use what they learn, like discipline, to complete other tasks like daily chores and homework assignments."

According to Ramirez, those with wrestling backgrounds can easily transition to other sports, like football - a sport that is popular amongst local boys and has been an avenue for some, to further their education off island.

American Samoa is steadily becoming a recruiting haven for off island college football coaches looking for raw talent, speed and size.

Ramirez said that with his connections as an educator in California — a state with an abundance of junior colleges and universities — and his ties through his brother, who is a college wrestling coach, he can contribute a lot to locals who want to pursue wrestling while furthering their education off island.

"We can help find a school that is right for them, assist with finding scholarships and grants, and locate a program that will meet their needs," Ramirez said, adding that there are programs available to finance college education that locals may not be aware of.

The three-day clinics started yesterday and conclude tomorrow.

Two of Ramirez's counterparts who were scheduled to arrive with him Monday night were unable to make the flight, although they were set to fly in last night.

They are the father-son team of Tiloi Tuitama Sr. and Kerisimasi "Masi" Tuitama.

Tuitama Sr., who is a son of American Samoa, has been coaching wrestling for over four decades. Kane and Ramirez agree that Tuitama's extensive background makes his involvement in the local clinics invaluable.

DYWA Deputy Director Pa'u Roy Ausage said yesterday that the free wrestling clinics are part of his department's sport development program, which aims to promote wellness and develop character amongst the territory's youth.

Boys and girls, as well as adults who are interested in participating in one of the remaining sessions for the free clinics can stop by the DYWA Pago Pago Community Youth Center today or tomorrow.