Alexandria area youth wrestlers get hands-on training from some of the nation's best collegians

Penn State University All-Americans Greg Kerkvliet and Carter Starocci were part of a talented group of counselors who worked with 142 wrestlers in grades 1-12 from the Alexandria area at the Cardinals' camp from June 28-30.

Young wrestlers from around the Douglas County area pose for a big group photo at the Alexandria wrestling camp that ran at the NorthStar Christian Academy in Alexandria from June 28-30. Counselors who worked with kids at the camp included Penn State University All-Americans Carter Starocci and Greg Kerkvliet, along with Grant Parrish from the 2021 St. Cloud State University Division II national championship team, and Minnewaska wrestler Tyson Meyer, a three-time Minnesota State High School League state champion. (Contributed photo)

Wrestlers from Alexandria and the surrounding communities had quite an opportunity recently when a star-studded lineup of counselors helped lead a camp from June 28-30 at the NorthStar Christian Academy in Alexandria.

A total of 142 area wrestlers in 1st through 12th-grade attended the camp where Penn State University standouts Greg Kerkvliet and Carter Starocci headlined a group of talented athletes on hand to help teach skills and some life lessons to area athletes.

Redshirt freshman Grant Parrish from St. Cloud State University’s 2021 Division II National Championship team, and Minnewaska’s Tyson Meyer, a three-time Minnesota State High School League state champion, also helped coach at the camp. St. Cloud State is a perennial power at that Division II level, having won three straight national titles.

A total of 142 athletes from 1st through 12th-grade took part in the camp at the NorthStar Christian Academy from June 28-30. (Contributed photo)


“I contacted Steve Costanzo, the head coach at St. Cloud State, asking if he had any wrestlers willing to come up to Alexandria to run our freestyle club this spring,” Alexandria Cardinals varsity wrestling coach Aldon Struchen said of how they were able to attract this list of counselors to Alexandria’s camp. “We got Grant Parrish and (redshirt freshman) Colby Njos for that. Grant happens to be cousins with Greg Kerkvliet. Greg asked Grant if he knew anyone looking for clinicians for wrestling camps so he could come back home for a week or so. Timing was just impeccable. (Alexandria’s) Jake Bryce did most of the organizing, advertising, and communicating for this event which produced a ton of kids for the event.”

Kerkvliet, a redshirt freshman wrestling at heavyweight this past winter season for Penn State, is a Minnesota native from Inver Grove Heights. He was a four-time MSHSL state champion for Simley High School and a USA Junior National Champion. This past March, he received All-American honors as one of the top heavyweights in the country after finishing seventh at 285 pounds during the NCAA finals.

Starocci, a redshirt freshman from Erie, Pa., won the 174-pound National Championship this past season with a 3-1 sudden victory against redshirt senior Michael Kemerer of Iowa.

Penn State under head coach Cael Sanderson is a perennial power in Division I college wrestling. The Nittany Lions have won eight of the program’s nine national titles since the 2011 season under Sanderson’s guidance. That includes four straight championship seasons from 2011-2014 and again from 2016-2019. Penn State finished second as a team this past season and with four individual champions.

Getting two All-American wrestlers from a program like the Nittany Lions to Alexandria is an opportunity that Struchen feels benefited the campers in multiple ways.

“I think they see that even the most basic techniques work and are used at the highest levels,” Struchen said. “Getting to hear from elite wrestlers on the importance of setting goals, focusing on small details, giving back to the sport and community, are super important. It was cool seeing our wrestlers getting to roll around on the mats and interact with the heros they see on ESPN and the Big Ten Network (on TV).”

Kerkvliet and Starocci spent a lot of time going over their favorite wrestling moves with the student-athletes. They also spent time signing autographs and talking about the importance of doing things right off the mat and how wrestling prepares them for life down the road.


“Alexandria and the surrounding communities were fortunate to have these young men in Alex impacting the lives of local youth and high-school aged wrestlers,” Struchen said.

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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