Fitness & Sports Performance


Clinics Featuring Local Elite Collegiate Wrestlers
June 06, 2024

From left, Malyke Hines, Ryan Crookham and Michael Beard, elite wrestlers for a local university and St. Luke’s Rising Stars, recently shared their knowledge and skills with the wrestling team at Northampton Senior High School, one of many clinics throughout the region sponsored by St. Luke’s.

St. Luke's University Health Network's Sports Medicine Department now offers free “Rising Star” wrestling clinics featuring outstanding local collegiate wrestlers. During the clinics, the athletes, who serve as sports ambassadors, work with young wrestlers in groups and individually. Besides helping young athletes improve their skills, they motivate them by sharing personal stories, including their challenges and successes.

"They're spreading the good word of wrestling, and they're giving back to the communities that otherwise might not get these opportunities for high-level skill development," said Adam Glose, Sports Medicine Coordinator. The program has already provided eight clinics with an average attendance of about 50.

The wrestlers were selected for the outreach program based on their wrestling success, personality and character.

"They are great at teaching kids and have tremendous expertise," said John F. Graham, Senior Network Administrator, Fitness & Sports Performance. "These athletes are very successful in wrestling. Also, their personalities are very well received by the coaches and the parents in attendance."

Graham said the clinics have been well attended and received positive reviews. For example, more than 100 wrestlers from nine different school districts participated in a recent clinic at Whitehall High School. The clinics are part of the Sports Medicine Department's comprehensive Name Image Likeness (NIL) program, which aims to develop future leaders in our community. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) allows athletes to receive payment for using their name, image and likeness. 

Ryan Crookham, a local wrestling star, is among the participating wrestlers. He wrestled at Saucon Valley High School and is now majoring in finance and engineering.

"It's come full circle for me to be able to work with these local kids because I'm from the Lehigh Valley," Crookham said. "I was built here, and my skills are due to the high-level wrestling in the Lehigh Valley. It means a lot to teach these kids. When I look at them, I see myself, and I think it would be great to see them go to my university."

Graham said one of the goals of the program is to encourage high school students to remain in the region and continue their wrestling career at local colleges.

Wrestler Malyke Hines of Kissimmee, Florida, is far from home. "I'm very big on giving back to the community and giving back to the youth," said Hines, who started when he was 13. "Wrestling has been a big part of my life and I like giving back to the sport. I thought it would be good to partner with St. Luke's."

Wrestler Michael Beard, who began participating in the sport when he was six with a wrestling club in Malvern, near Philadelphia, agreed, “It's a good way to give back to the local community, impact young athletes as much as we can through wrestling and be good role models for the community.”

The wrestlers said they have also gained from the experience. Hines, who is majoring in entrepreneurship and innovation and hopes to have his own streetwear brand, said that through the program he has made connections. At a recent event, he got to know a New York fashion designer.

Beard, a political science major, hopes to enter sales. He plans to start an internship at Lutron in June. "I think the program has helped me have better communication skills overall because we go to clinics and have to show moves in front of everyone and make sure they understand what we're saying."

Wrestling has been a big part of all the collegiate athletes' lives. Beard said benefits of participating in the sport include bonding with his teammates and building social networks that will benefit him throughout his career and life. It has also taught him that he can reach his goals through hard work and discipline.

Hines agreed, "Wrestling has helped me to be a better person, showing grit and staying disciplined. Discipline is everything. Being successful on the mat represents who you are off the mat, which is staying disciplined and consistent in life when it comes to sleeping, eating and being a good person. You can correlate that to a job or having a family."

Graham said the program has exceeded his expectations. “These guys are packing rooms with lots of kids,” he said. “They spend quality time talking to the kids during and after the clinic. They've signed a lot of autographs over the short time they've been with us. They’re regarded highly by the kids and the coaches."

St. Luke’s has 16 other NIL athletes across various sports, such as football, field hockey, basketball, softball and soccer, Glose said.