Rio’s Favela Kids Wrestling With Opportunities

Last weekend I had the opportunity to go and help at the FLOAERJ (the wrestling federation of Rio de Janeiro) for the Cadet Freestyle and Greco for both male and female categories. In addition there was also a large group training for all of the youth wrestling UPP programs that operate in the favelas.

This blog is written by Connection Rio team member Torryn Heffelfinger. He blogs weekly on life and training BJJ, wrestling and MMA in Rio de Janeiro. In the following excerpt from his weekly blog “Training the Dream”, he talks about the FLOAERJ wrestling championships.

In total there were approximately 530 young wrestlers at the event. The event was ran by Antoine Jaoude with help from the wrestling community. For the UPP youth training portion FILA Coaches and members of Brazil’s National Team got on the mat to teach the kids and have them wrestle exhibition matches against kids from the other favelas.

It was a big deal for the kids to have high level athletes there to help. I had a ton of kids ask about where I was from and why I was there. When I told them I was a wrestler from America who moved to Brazil to live and train they all would smile broadly. A few families asked to have their pictures with me, which for me seemed a bit embarrassing (I’m not anyone famous) but I was happy to do it just to have the kids smile and look back a the event with fond memories.

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Two of the more memorable moments from the kids was one little girl who, as she was saying good-bye, told me “you need to go to the beach and get in the sun, you are way to white for Brazil.”; and another little boy who went up to all the wrestling instructors and FILA wrestlers offered to shake their hand and proceeded to arm drag everyone of us and start an impromptu wrestling match.

For the Cadet Championships I was impressed with the level of the wrestling. Some of the kids were newer (but scrappy none the less) but overall the level of wrestling was pretty high, a few of the kids were on the same level seen in the U.S. In addition to training wrestling many of the kids also train in BJJ or Judo so it was interesting to see how the other arts transferred over to their wrestling, I saw some nice judo throws hit.

I was equally impressed with the skill level of the female wrestlers. Women’s wrestling is growing in popularity across the world and Brazil is no exception. In the coming years I think you will see more and more wrestlers from Brazil (both Men and Women) making an impact on the international level.

One thing I realized is no matter where you are in the world the wrestling community is the same. Old friends greet each other with bear hugs and lifts, and no matter how old you are you’re never to old to get on the mat for a quick wrestling match with a friend.

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