NCAA champs Gabe and Max Dean teach local wrestlers at area wrestling camp
From June 27-29, NCAA Champs Gabe and Max Dean and the PEAK Wrestling staff taught some area youth wrestlers some moves and other wrestling-related things as well.
Brothers Gabe and Max Dean, who both have NCAA national championships in wrestling, were in Alexandria for the PEAK Wrestling Camp on June 27-29 to teach some youth wrestlers some moves and other principles as well.
“We wanted it to be fun and fresh, but we also wanted to give these kids stuff that they can use,” Max said. “We did a lot of hand fighting to scoring, and we did do some stuff on the mat. We also went over some scrambling techniques and some ways to score when your opponent gets to your legs.”
The camp was held at the Northstar Sports Complex in Alexandria.
Gabe Dean won two NCAA titles at Cornell University at 184 pounds (2015 and 2016) while Max, who was a redshirt junior last year at Penn State, won his first national championship back in March (197 lbs).
Gabe also won a silver medal at the 2017 NCAA DI Championships in addition to winning the bronze medal at the 2017 Pan American Championships and the gold medal at the 2020 U.S. Senior National Championships (86 KG - 189.5 lbs). Max is a three-time All-American while Gabe was a four-time All-American.
The PEAK Wrestling Club is coordinated by the Alexandria youth wrestling coordinator Jacob Bryce, who graduated from Minnewaska Area High School in 2004 and was a two-time NCAA tournament qualifier at North Dakota State.
Bryce said that the main goal of this kind of camp is to bring elite-level wrestling camps to areas that aren’t just in the Twin Cities.
“By bringing guys like that here to Alexandria, we're creating opportunities so that they don't have to go down to the Twin Cities, or travel three, four hours in order to take advantage of or find guys of this caliber,” Bryce said. “Being able to have that right here in their backyard during a busy time of year gives us the best opportunity to get the most kids in. I just believe the sport of wrestling teaches so much. And it's growing not only in Alexandria but around the country.”
The camp was broken up into two different sections, one for youth wrestlers who have some wrestling experience and were in third grade and up, while the other group was for beginner wrestlers from kindergarten through second grade (less than three years of experience).
“Most of the kids were from Alexandria, and then a few of the surrounding towns,” Bryce said. “We had 90 in our advanced session, which is our capacity for the mat space. Then in the beginner session, which is just an hour-long, we had 35 kids. It’s awesome that the local kids got to take advantage of this.”
Local youth camps like this have helped grow the sport of wrestling.
“Getting participation, getting kids’ feet wet, making it fun so they enjoy it, I think helps a lot,” Gabe said. “Giving an opportunity for kids to come out and give it a shot, and then try to get them hooked in, I think these camps do that.”
On Jan. 28, Bryce and members of the youth wrestling program were at the Penn State-Iowa dual in Iowa City, where Gabe was also in attendance to watch Max wrestle All-American Jacob Warner, who Max beat 8-3 to seal the victory for top-ranked Penn State.
“Some of us wrestling dads brought our sons down to the Iowa-Penn State dual because it's a once in a lifetime opportunity with 20,000 fans, and with our connection with the guys from Penn State last year, going down and into Carver-Hawkeye Arena was a pretty awesome experience,” Bryce said.
Gabe, who works for My Storage Great Lakes Manufacturing in his and Max’s hometown of Lowell, Michigan, has some business connections in the Alexandria area.
After the dual, Bryce said they went down to see if they could get a couple of photos with the wrestlers when they ran into Gabe. Bryce and Gabe started talking, and after the dual, began setting up the camp.
“It was such a cool moment,” Gabe said about meeting the Alexandria youth wrestling program. “They contacted my business partner, who has become a great friend of mine, he contacted me, and we set up the camp.”
In addition to technique, the camp also touched on the mental and fun sides of wrestling.
“The goal right now in the summer isn't even necessarily to be in shape, so we don't want to spend too much time on conditioning or making it too hard on them. We wrestled a little bit live, which can be tough, but that's more so that they can just try the moves that they're learning,” Max said. “I think it's good to experience something hard, but you don't want to break down their bodies. You want them to leave thinking that they had fun at summer wrestling camp too.”
The principle of respect is something that Max said they talked about a lot as well.
“Obviously, you want to teach some wrestling, but also even more so than that, just being respectful to other people, working really hard and being focused while you're there and making sure that you're enjoying what you're doing because that's the point,” Max said.
The Alexandria area seemed to leave a good impression on the Dean brothers.
“How could you not love it,” Gabe said. “With all the lakes, great food, great atmosphere, great people, what a great place to live. The kids were great; we went over a lot of things. We had fun. We wrestled live and we hit all the bases.”
Along with Bryce, Alexandria high school head coach Aldon Struchen, Minnewaska assistant coach Dane Ankeny, Jefferson alum (2000) and North Dakota State alum Josh Timm, and current St. Cloud State wrestlers Colby Njos (Anoka ‘19) and Grant Parrish (Kasson-Mantorville ‘19) are also on the PEAK staff.