SPRING HILL — The competitive wrestling success at F.W. Springstead High School for going on two decades can be attributed to athletic competitors and good coaching, but the secret weapon may be the wrestling club, which prepares wrestlers as young as 5 for futures on the mat.

Consistently in the top 10 schools in the state, and boasting high-level finishes nationally, Springstead wrestlers are a force to be reckoned with every year, said Eagles head wrestling coach Mike LaRocca. A big factor has been the Spring Hill Wrestling Club, which provides wrestlers joining the team with the “foundation they need” to become competitive more quickly.

“The earlier they can start, the better,” said LaRocca, himself a former member of the Springstead wrestling team.

He draws an analogy to basketball.

“Imagine someone tries out for the team and has never learned to dribble the ball,” said LaRocca. “That’s how it would be if someone tried out for wrestling and they didn’t have any training beforehand.”

The club is the path to gaining the skills and understanding of the sport, and already it has paid dividends for Springstead. Because of the club, the future looks brighter yet for the successful team, said LaRocca, who notes that already there are some up-and-comers who he believes are destined to give the team what it needs to be even more competitive.

“Our number one (wrestler) is always competitive in the county,” he said. As the wrestling club matures and its members get more time wrestling under their belts before joining the team, the Springstead wrestlers are expected to “gain the depth” at the second and third wrestler levels needed for even more success, said LaRocca.

The club teaches Folk, Collegiate and Greco Roman styles. The club officially starts its nine-week sessions the second week of the new school year, but sessions the second Tuesday and Thursday of the month are running through summer, where club members and team members come together to practice beginning at 5:30 p.m. at Springstead.

The club is led by Louis Kachiroubas. While he sees the club as a great incubator of wrestling talent for the school, its value extends to preparing youths for many sporting endeavors.

“What you learn crosses over into all the sports,” he said. “It teaches balance, agility and speed.”

The club is structured to bring kids along without being intimidating or too demanding, potentially killing their desire.

“In the beginning we’re doing cartwheels and rolls,” said Kachiroubas. “In the second phase, we get into wrestling games.”

Benjamin Goyene, 12, has been a member of the club for six years. While he hopes to one day join the Springstead wrestling team, he said the club training has made him a better athlete in his current sports pursuits.

“It’s helped me a lot with flag football,” Goyene said.

Joseph Gallo, 15, has been in the club since he was in fifth grade, and is on the Springstead team. His dad wrestled, which got him interested, and he wants to keep wrestling beyond high school.

“I’m looking at wrestling at a good college,” he said. “I want to stick with it.”

LaRocca said there has been a lot more interest is wrestling over the past few years thanks to the popularity of mixed martial arts.

“A lot of young people see that the top MMA fighters have wrestling experience,” LaRocca said. “They see MMA coming on and how wrestling makes fighters more competitive.”

MMA may be criticized by some as too brutal, but LaRocca sees the successes of MMA fighters with wrestling backgrounds as a “compliment” to the sport of wrestling. He also sees MMA as a chance for wrestlers to earn money outside the very limited career opportunities in wrestling.

He said only the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent can make a go of it in competitive wrestling as a sport, adding the U.S. Olympic team has a very limited number of spots.

There are three sessions of the Spring Hill Wrestling Club beginning Aug. 20, Oct. 22 and Jan. 14. The cost for a session is $75. Each session includes a beginner class 5:30-6:30 p.m. and an advanced class for more capable and older youths between 6:30 and 8 p.m.

Search Spring Hill Wrestling Club on Facebook for more information.