In 1981 Rick Griffith, a student teacher at Medical Lake High School (MLHS) and former wrestler, and Jeff King, a MLHS Varsity Wrestler, had the idea to begin a kids wrestling club in Medical Lake. Rick and I (Wayne Terry) attended the same church, so when he saw me there he asked if I’d like to be a part of the club. I jumped at the chance. The Medical Lake Park & Recreation Dept. was approached by Rick and Jeff to supply insurance coverage and other benefits, making the club and official Medical Lake Park & Recreation program.
We began our practices late in the winter, so late in fact that baseball was starting practice for the varsity. Rick was one of the baseball coaches which required his presence and left him attending only one practice with the fledgling club. When Rick left the club the responsibilities fell upon Jeff and me. The word had gone out to the ML grade school and Jr. High School and we had 17 boys ages 5-14 that formed our club. The first year, we conditioned our boys, taught them a few moves, and how to wrestle. At that time, we didn’t know of the existence of any other youth wrestling clubs, so we did not have any real competition other than each other in practice.
The second season began, and our practices started earlier in the year. Our numbers had doubled and we boasted an attendance of 34 excited and energetic young boys. Every night after I got home from work, I’d get on the phone and try to contact school officials, teachers, and coaches from any school remotely in the area, in search of another club for our boys to wrestle. Many times I would call seven or eight different people before I found the person that could say for sure that their school had no kids wrestling program. With much persistence, I located the only other school having a kids club, which was Chewelah Mat Cats. For whatever reason, there were no dads involved with our program at this time, so on the designated date, we loaded all of our wrestlers into the cars of the wrestler’s moms and made the drive to Chewelah. Since we were going to wrestle the “MAT CATS”, we couldn’t be without a name for our club, at which time we became the “MAT MAULERS” Wrestling Club. We arrived at the high school gymnasium, unloaded, warmed up, wrestled our team against theirs, and essentially our season was over. We continued to practice for a while but the thrill of the competition was over for the year.
The third year of our existence welcomed a new team from Colville, “THE MAT RATS”. We wrestled a three way meet between Medical Lake, Chewelah and Colville. We lined all of the wrestlers up against the wall in a weight line, paired the wrestlers and put them on the mats to wrestle. We followed the same procedure pitting winners against winners and losers against losers. At the end of the tournament, each of the top three placers took home, a home made, blue, red, or white ribbon.
Year number four showed major growth in new teams, as Liberty brought the number of teams to four. We began hosting tournaments on Saturdays at each of our respective schools where each of our wrestlers competed from week to week against the same kids as the week or weeks prior.
Year number five brought another team from Wilbur to our group, and increased the total number of wrestlers to 150, at our organizational meeting, Dennis Turner, the Coach/Director from the Liberty club, suggested that we form a league and with the support of the four other team Coaches/Directors, the “WASHINGTON LITTLE GUY WRESTLING LEAGUE” was born. Now with each team hosting a tournament we wrestled a total of 5 tournaments. During the first five years of the Mat Maulers existence we found a few other teams in North Idaho that were wrestling some Freestyle Tournaments. By now, we had received some free bus trips from the Medical Lake Parks and Recreation Dept. and we would pack a school bus full of Mat Maulers on the largest bus the school district had at 5:30 and 6:00 in the morning and drive some treacherous winter roads to the tournaments in Kellogg, Rathdrum, and Wallace Idaho then we would return home late that night, sometimes around 10:00 pm. Sometimes the parents were waiting for us when we drove in and most often we has to have the wrestlers call their parents to come get them, which was a real challenge, as there were no cell phones then and only two pay phones in the whole town of Medical Lake. Some of the kids didn’t have a quarter and in general it was a real nightmare. After the parents were called they would come to pick up their boys which could take 30 to 40 minutes in some cases, leaving Jeff or me (Wayne) there with the wrestlers until 11:00 or 11:30pm. Those were long days but such good days.
Our club continued to grow each year and at one point we enrolled 140 young wrestlers in the Mat Maulers club. Eventually Rearden formed a new team which took 25 of our kids who lived in the Rearden area. That gave us a little more room to practice. Then Cheney came on board and started a club as well and relieved our numbers by taking another 25 wrestlers from their area. After that our club seemed to plateau between 100 and 120 wrestlers where we are at the present.