SoCon wrestlers do well with “Headlock On Hunger”

March 7, 2015  By: Tyler Norris Goode

ASHEVILLE – Because getting to a lower weight class is common to the sport, most wrestlers who battled for Southern Conference titles Saturday at Kimmel Arena have some idea what it’s like to go without regular food rations.

There is one key difference between the SoCon’s best grapplers and the Buncombe County residents they helped by bringing thousands of pounds of nonperishable food items to be given away as part of Eblen Charities’ “Headlock On Hunger” program: The athletes know where their next meal is coming from.

But as Virginia Military coach Chris Skretkowicz pointed out, the steps wrestlers take to compete at different weights give them sympathy for those battling food instability.

“I would not wish hunger on my worst enemy,” Skretkowicz said.

Neither apparently would any of the other league’s athletes and coaches whose donations impressed

Bill Murdock, executive director for Eblen Charities.

Murdock estimated more than 10,000 pounds were delivered by league schools in addition to cash gifts of more than $3,000 through the wrestling drive as well as the “Hoops Against Hunger” effort through the SoCon Basketball Championships.

Murdock said the food will be given to qualified Buncombe County and Asheville City public school students to take home over spring break.

“We know one thing: when you’re hungry, nothing else matters,” Murdock said. “You’re not able to study. You’re not able to think. You’re not able to have a regular academic career because you have a secret; you know you’re different from some of the other kids who do have enough food at home.”

Murdock said there was no official competition to see which school could bring the most boxed and canned items, but he added VMI probably brought more than anyone – roughly 700 pounds. Davidson’s wrestlers brought an estimated 500 pounds. (Continued on page 3)

Skretkowicz said his school actually did hold a contest to see which of VMI’s 11 military companies could produce the largest haul.“It wasn’t just our wrestling team; it was our school who did it,” Skretkowicz said. “They’re really big on who’s company is best.

“To me, this is a close topic for wrestlers because wrestlers know what it’s like to go hungry at times,” added Skretkowicz, who wrestled collegiately for Hofstra. “But what we do is voluntary. For someone who has no option … we just have compassion for these families. We want to help them.”

A sophomore who competes for VMI at the 125 weight class, Dalton Henderson said his past experiences with backing off on regular eating rations ahead of weigh-ins are etched in memory. “Your energy goes down a little bit, and it starts getting depressing because your moods can really change,” Henderson said. “Just depending on how long you’ve gone without food or how long you’ve gone without drinking something, it can really affect how you react.”

Murdock said the donations are extremely vital for times like spring break, when some local children have little at home to eat.“One story we’ve heard is a local middle school student who’d been at home for two weeks over Christmas break,” Murdock said. “When she came back to school, she went to the counselor’s office and was eating corn meal straight out of the box. We’re not talking about inner-city Chicago; this is right here. And unfortunately, it’s that way in every community.”