Chobee Wrestling Club coach Curtis Tyson spoke to the Okeechobee County School Board on May 14 on the need of a wrestling room at Okeechobee High School.
In addition to coaching Chobee Wrestling Club, Tyson is an assistant coach with the OHS wrestling team.
Despite producing three of Okeechobee’s four state titles, the wrestling program has no dedicated facility on campus.
“This is about the kids,” said Tyson to school board members. “These kids have a chance to have their lives changed by wrestling like I did. I went to college because of wrestling. I probably wouldn’t have even graduated high school if it wasn’t for wrestling.”
Tyson won two of those three state championships for Okeechobee himself while attending OHS. During his time wrestling at OHS in the early ’90s, Tyson dominated his competition in the state of Florida.
Currently the OHS wrestling team practices in the gym. But when the gym is in use, the team transfers their mats to the cafeteria to practice there. Tyson estimates the team loses five hours a week moving mats between the gym and cafeteria.
OHS did have a dedicated wrestling room in the past, but it was converted to a locker room nearly 15 years ago.
Tyson said building the new facility near the softball fields behind the high school could be one option, but admitted that the final decision would come down to the school district.
“Almost every other sport has their own place,” Tyson said. “Softball has their own field separate from baseball. Football has their field, basketball has its place. Everything has its own place except wrestling.”
Tyson also noted that the high school hasn’t produced a state finalist in wrestling since the wrestling room was converted into a locker room.
If a facility is eventually built, it could benefit the local middle schools as well.
Both Osceola and Yearling Middle School expanded their athletic programs this year by fielding softball teams for the first time. With a dedicated wrestling facility in the county, the schools could field wrestling teams as well.
School board members appeared sympathetic to Tyson’s cause, but admitted they needed to discuss it further as a board with the superintendent to come up with solutions and possible options.