South Charlotte

Police Athletic League wrestlers glad to be home

The Police Activities League building on Oaklawn Avenue teems with the history of its youth athletic programs.

Walls are covered with wrestling, football, and cheerleading photographs that are beginning to fade. Trophies occupy out-of-reach shelves.

The trophies too tall for shelves, like the four-foot 2008 AAU wrestling state championship trophy, stand on the floor.

And in a nearby large, open space, the PAL wrestling team is practicing, representing the present and future of a program that has been in transition.

After spending a year at the Revolution Sports Academy, a Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation facility, members of the PAL Predators are glad to be back at Oaklawn, their home facility.

"It's almost like any other sport, you take care of your home field and court," said Jeff Hood, PAL's executive director.

"They take pride in it. It's theirs.

"The kids work hard, and that lends to it as well. The parents ... like having a facility they can be comfortable in too."

Looking to expand the number of wrestlers and broaden its geographical range, the Predators took up residence at the new Revolution Sports Academy building during the 2010-11 season.

The Oaklawn facility was used as a backup.

Specializing in sports such as boxing, wrestling, martial arts, and track and field, Revolution opened its doors in spring 2010. PAL was one of two youth wrestling programs using the space.

"(Revolution Sports Academy) is a very valued community partner with PAL," Hood said.

One of the main advantages PAL has at its own place is the ability to schedule practice. The team practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6-8 p.m. but those times can be flexible.

The team doesn't have to worry about starting early or finishing late.

More importantly, Hood, coach Josh Metts, the athletes and their parents agree that the PAL facility keeps them away from the distractions that Revolution's busy schedule presents.

Metts says it's easy for his young wrestlers to be awe-inspired by the facility's unique sports.

"I love this place (Oaklawn) because it's very peaceful," said 10-year old Bryson Roller.

"You don't have distractions and you can stay focused on the coach."

Ten-year old Dorian Overbeck agrees with his teammate, even if his point is a little self-serving.

"(Being distracted) gets people in trouble and we have to do suicides (running sprints)," Overbeck said.

"Here we don't have the distractions and we get our work done."

The move back to Oaklawn was made easier by PAL's administrative offices moving to the former Greenville Recreation Center, which is nearby.

Metts says practicing at their home facility has helped his wrestlers produce more positive results at tournaments.

"There are four walls around them and all they can do is concentrate on wrestling," he says.

"And I feel that makes them better. We probably have more than tripled our individuals' win totals.

"It's been an amazing year so far and we're just getting started."

Because it values its partnership with Revolution, PAL still practices there on Mondays, enabling it to provide its program to youth who may find the facility at the corner of Remount Road and Barringer Drive more accessible.