SALISBURY — As a state champion wrestler at Salisbury High, Willie Hosch received accolades for his athletic prowess.
Still, his life was missing something: a strong, positive male figure.
Despite not having a role model as a teen, Hosch’s life is heading in the exact direction he’s wanted.
At 29, Hosch is a professional mixed martial arts cage fighter. And when he’s not in a cage battling an opponent, he’s in the gym with local young athletes who hope to achieve the same success.
“I’m inspired to work with youth because when I was coming up, I didn’t have guys to mentor me. I didn’t have these influential older guys,” he said.
Hosch said he realizes teens deal with peer pressure, and some are even wooed into a glamorized gang lifestyle.
“I want to let them know they can be anything,” he said. “I want kids to dream — that’s the starting point of their success.”
His ultimate goal is to open a gym and a countywide wrestling club with a focus on preparing youth physically for athletics and personally for life.
“My main objective is to set these kids in the right direction,” he said.
Hosch lives as clean a lifestyle as possible — eating well, regularly working out, getting in tune spiritually.
“You spiritually get in tune with yourself, then you look better, feel better, perform better,” Hosch said.
Hosch uses guest passes from the Forum on U.S. 29 where he is a member to work with a small group of teens — Norman Kelly, Keith Tillman and Jaleel Hitchens, all 15, and Darnell Taylor, 16 — who are all athletes at Erwin Middle School and North Rowan High.
Kelly, who is Hosch’s cousin, and Tillman just recently began wrestling, and although they work out at school under their coach, Hosch gives them a little something extra. Hitchens is also Hosch’s nephew.
Hosch said most high schools and some college coaches focus on weight lifting, but he likes to incorporate calisthenics and resistance training, which he said makes athletes more “explosive” and “flexible.”
He hopes to “make them better all around.”
Hosch isn’t trying to undermine the teens’ coaches, but he wants to give them what he didn’t have — a positive male role model and a different type of athletic training.
“I want them to get scholarships to school. I’ve done everything they want to do. I had scholarships; it’s their turn,” he said.
Hosch said he didn’t feel as though college was for him, but he has plans to help these teens continue to higher education.
Kelly said he’s also learned some wrestling maneuvers from Hosch that he hasn’t learned yet in school. Hosch helped improve his stance, Kelly said.
Working out hard
When the teens recently hit the gym with Hosch, there was little down time as he pushed them to their breaking point. When one person finished burpees or up/downs, another was using resistance bands to perform shots or wrestling take-downs.
“I’m doing it to make them better. I want them to improve,” Hosch said.
He said it makes him feel good to see them accomplish their goals.
Hosch believes this is what he’s supposed to do in life, “improve the lives of others.”
Taylor said he’s improved in wrestling. “I think I got quicker ... more endurance. This training helps me last longer on the mat,” he said.
It’s Taylor’s first year in wrestling, and he began football in November.
Not only has working with the teens changed the way they see their sport and given them a good influence, it’s changed Hosch, who has wrestled since middle school.
“It’s what I want to do. It allows me to be more positive. I’m able to be a more positive influence. It helps me stay focused on what I’m doing,” Hosch said.
Hosch said helping the teens helps him improve his life.
He attends their wrestling matches, cheering them on from the stands.
“It makes me feel good to see him in the stands,” Kelly said.
Kelly, Tillman, Hitchens and Taylor returned the gesture when they made a trip to Richmond, Va., to see Hosch in a fight.
“I want to mentor these kids because a lot of their parents work, and some have kids who are rebellious,” Hosch said.
Hosch feels as though he can relate to the teens as an athlete.
“I want to change the perception. I made it, and I want to help here. I want to put my energy back into this community,” he said.
Hosch wants to take advantage of the success he’s found and use his knowledge to help others.
“I’m not perfect, but I know some stuff,” he said with a smile.
Hosch is appreciative of the Forum for letting him use the space, but in order to be consistent with the teens and involve more athletes, he says he’ll need his own facility. He’s making strides to open his own gym, but the process has been a slow one. He hopes others in the community will support and back him on giving these teens a positive outlet.
For more information about Willie Hosch, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact him via Facebook by searching Willie Warhead Hosch, or Twitter via @WillieWarhead.