Manchester University
Oak Leaves

March 31, 2017

Underwater Wrestling

Manchester Adds Underwater Wrestling

Kelleen Cullison

What's a ring doing underwater? It's not an elaborate proposal or a dolphin show, though that may be close. It's underwater wrestling and it's the newest sport on the roster for Manchester University athletics.

Underwater wrestling, commonly referred to as Aquathlon, is a simple sport that originated in Russia. A relatively new activity, the official league of underwater wrestling is the International Aquathlon Association, which was formed in 1996 by Russia, Ukraine and Israel.
The rules are simple. Two opponents face off in nothing but a swim cap, swimsuit, goggles, and flippers on opposite sides of the pool. Under the water's surface is a square rink that can only be entered through the rings aligned on both sides. The object of the match? Swim through the ring, and grapple with your opponent for the ribbon on their ankle, emerging within 30 seconds. The first to emerge within their opponent's ribbon is declared the victor. Three matches total take place and winner takes all.

Sophomore Anjel Clemente has stepped forward as head coach to both the female and male teams.  He is a member of the Manchester University swim/dive team, and his recent experience as an aquatic athlete gives him rare insight into coaching for the sport. "I would describe my coaching style as positive critique," Clemente said. "This means I won't hesitate to point out when I see one of my athletes making a mistake, and attempt to fix it.  At the same time, we are not having a productive practice if everyone isn't having fun."

As a student as well as a coach, Clemente has no qualms about remaining a fellow athlete to the students he will coach.  "I will remain on the swim/dive team," Clemente said. "I have my own goals aside from the Underwater Wrestling team's goals. Pursuing what I love is something I want to keep sight of as I help students explore their passion for aquathlon."

Each match begins with the sound of a gong, sending the wrestlers into the water. Those concerned may be assured that wrestlers can concede the match at any time, either by surfacing and hitting the water, or by repeatedly slapping their opponent to signify their defeat. Referees stand by at all times, and consult the video recordings to determine the winner of close calls.

Student interest is rising as word of the new sport addition gets out. "I'd join," said first-year Jordan Napier. "I don't know much about swimming, but I like contact sports that are competitive." Napier is a wrestler for Manchester, but wouldn't mind diving into another sport.

"I think underwater wrestling sounds awesome," said first-year Tiffany Reith, a member of the MU swim/dive team. "It would help me build strength and lung capacity that would benefit my swimming." As an underwater athlete already, the new team gives Reith another hope. "The more water sports Manchester has, the more likely we are to get a pool on campus!"

An on-site pool is something Coach Clemente has already considered. "I'm not opposed to selling bubbles for a new pool on campus, although I'm not sure that'll do the trick," he said. "We'd do numerous car washes with the team, and sell MU Underwater Wrestling merchandise like towels and pool noodles." The new pool would include underwater cameras to project the action in High Definition for aquathlon spectators. As an indoor sport, the team can compete year round, and will begin practices as soon as they complete their fundraising.

The competition in underwater wrestling is tough, just as it can be in many contact and competitive sports. "Our biggest opponent in the league will most likely be Carthage College," Clemente said. "They're our toughest competition on the swim/dive team. Located in southeast Wisconsin, they're able to train in Lake Michigan, so they have a lot of experience in the water and resilience from swimming against currents. It will be our goal to beat them in Regionals."

Clemente explained the team’s uniform. It will wear the university's signature black and gold, and right off center of each swimsuit will depict a squirrel in a swim cap. "We take pride in being Squirrels," Clemente said.