“Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy,” Dan Gable, 1972 Olympic Gold medal winner
Any casual observer of wrestling may notice it’s a highly technical sport that takes years to master. And no, we’re not talking about professional wrestling where performers are jumping off the top ropes. We’re talking about the type of wrestling you see in the Olympics.
But to those who are dedicated to enriching the lives of young athletes through the sport of wrestling, like the Bismarck Gorilla Wrestling Club, they will tell you wrestling is about teaching life lessons that will reach far beyond the days on the mat.
“There’s no doubt wrestling is hard. The environment is tough. Practices are hot, it’s sweaty and it’s just you against your partner trying to get better,” said Gorilla head coach Justin DeCoteau. “But kids are better for it. It teaches them perseverance, commitment and discipline to show up day after day in a grueling environment to work at getting better at something.”
The sport of wrestling is growing in Bismarck-Mandan with five youth clubs now in the area. Despite the abundance of clubs, Gorilla Wrestling continues to grow, with one of its highest registered years in the 2022 season. But with growth comes challenges and opportunities.
“The 2020 COVID season showed us we needed to start thinking long-term about the growth of our club. With our numbers increasing, a high school wrestling room wasn’t big enough for practice anymore and the uncertainty that COVID brought, we needed a place of our own. We saw charitable gaming as a way to support the long-term viability of our club,” said Gorilla club president Brian Fettig.
In a matter of two years, Gorilla Wrestling has been able to get their gaming operations started, with e-tabs and blackjack being offered at Buffalo Wild Wings in North Bismarck, and Bingo and e-tabs being offered seasonally at Rosie’s on Brush Lake. Revenue from gaming, combined with a capital campaign, has given the club the ability to lease their own facility for the 2023 season and beyond. Just in time, too. The sanctioning of high school girls wrestling has increased competition for practice space.
“Since we are new to gaming, we knew we needed a capital campaign to support our goal of having our own facility, but gaming had to be part of the equation too or it wouldn’t be feasible,” explains Fettig. “The capital campaign got us off the ground, gaming keeps us in the air.”
Thanks to the support of charitable gaming, Bismarck Gorilla Wrestling Club will be able to teach kids the fundamentals of wrestling and life’s lessons for many years to come.