A Welcome Mat.
That should be the logo of the Ferndale Eagles Wrestling Club.
Nothing too fancy. Not a lot of curly cues or garnishments.
Just a Welcome Mat. The same kind that most folks have sitting outside the front door.
A Welcome Mat sets both the tone and tells the story of coach John Olson’s youth wrestling organization.
“The club is not as cheap as it was,” said Olson.
He is apologetic, but Olson has to be kidding. It was a $6 membership fee for years. Inflation has turned it into a 10 spot. No similar club is so ridiculously cheap to join.
“We have quite a few kids in the area who are not from wealthy beginnings. I wanted to keep more people interested and hopefully it is not a burden on their pockets,” said Olson.
“I think it is a good way for kids to get their exercise and to teach them wrestling moves. Kids learn to handle both the wins and losses. That is not always easy.”
This is Olson’s 16th year with the club. Prior to that, he was active with the Webster Gray Wolves in Hazel Park.
The club attracts a growing cadre of talented young wrestlers. Among them is eight-year-old Joshua Edmond. Edmond finished second at 65 pounds at the MYWA (Michigan Youth Wrestling Association) state finals.
The Ferndale Eagles Wrestling Club sent 11 to the state championships held at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek. They were Matt Ballard, Daniel Collins, Joshua Edmond, Chevez Farris, Drake Landry, Jonah Poole, Eli Smith, Kye Smith, Thomas Smith Jr., Brendan Stamper, and Joshua Young.
Two of the Eagles placed; Edmond was second and Farris finished first at 174 pounds in the 11th-12th grade division.
Farris also finished third at 171 pounds in the state at the Michigan High School Athletic Association state championship meet at The Palace. He is a junior at Ferndale High School.
This is Joshua Edmond’s third season with the club.
“Joshua got started because of a friend he played football with,” said his dad, Anthony Edmond. “He took to it immediately. He likes the full contact.”
Joshua’s brother, Caleb, 11, also wrestles with the club.
At the MYWA championships, each age and weight division began with a 32-man bracket. The event lasted two days. If a wrestler won his first three matches Saturday, he advanced to Sunday’s competition. That’s what Redmond did. He also won his first match Sunday, automatically qualifying him for the championship bout.
“The Ferndale Eagles Wrestling Club, and coach John Olson, create a very open, welcoming environment,” said Anthony Redmond.
That Welcome Mat extends to everyone, said Tim Collins, an assistant coach on the staff. His son, Daniel, is an eighth grader in Ferndale and will wrestle at the high school next year.
“The club really is John Olson,” said Collins, the chief of police in Ferndale. “He’s been doing this for 34 years. I got involved when my youngest, Daniel, decided to try wrestling. John’s theory has always been to get as many kids as possible involved. The last several years he’s really built the membership up.”
The wrestlers who gather in the wrestling room at Ferndale High come from Ferndale, Detroit, Highland Park, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak and Royal Oak Township.
Mentoring is a natural instinct for Olson. When he was in his 20s, both his mom and dad died. The eldest of 11 children, it was up to him to keep the family together.
“I dealt with it,” he said simply. “It was just something that happened. It was not easy. There was lots to deal with, but we got through it.
“In wrestling, you not only try to build a better wrestler, but a better person. Dan Gable once said that after you have wrestled, everything else is life is easy. I think there is some truth to that.”
The cost of membership of the Ferndale Eagles Wrestling Club? Ten bucks. The value of a man like John Olson? Invaluable.