Bob Berceau remembers the wrestling camps he attended as a kid.
The skills and moves the Luxemburg-Casco coach and alum learned during those sessions ultimately helped him win three WIAA state titles and become the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s first NCAA Division III national champion.
But when Berceau decided to start his own camp, he didn’t want to use the same structure as the ones he had attended.
“I wanted to have something where kids could come to the camp and have something to do in between,” said Berceau, whose camp is in its seventh year.
“When I looked at camps when I was a kid, you’d go to these colleges and sit in a dorm between sessions. There wasn’t a whole lot to do in between, and for me it wasn’t that fun of a camp.”
Berceau’s three-day wrestling camp started Wednesday and has 95 participants from around the area, ranging from second grade to incoming high school seniors.
The wrestling portion takes place at the Luxemburg-Casco middle school gym, where a contingent of college coaches and wrestlers give instructions during a pair of three-hour sessions each day.
When those periods are up, the wrestlers bike three miles to Berceau’s home in Casco, where his 40-acre property is littered with tents. The wrestlers get to fish, swim, play basketball, dodge ball and a variety of other outdoor games before enjoying a camp fire at night.
“You don’t feel like you’re trapped here,” said Wisconsin redshirt freshman Jesse Thielke, who was a four-time WIAA state champion and is one of the instructors at Berceau’s camp. “You feel like you’re hanging out at home or on a vacation.”
The Germantown native won the 132-pound Greco-Roman title during last month’s U.S. World Team Trials in Stillwater, Okla., after placing fourth at the 2012 Olympic Trials.
Thielke’s idea of unwinding from that accomplishment was helping out at the Berceau camp for the first time.
“That was always my summer growing up, a lot of people would go on vacations, I would go to wrestling camps,” said Thielke, who became friends with Berceau’s son, Mitch, at wrestling camps.
“I saw all my friends there, trained hard all summer and got stronger. It’s a good way to spend your summer.”
Berceau, who will be entering his 15th season as L-C’s coach and has led the program to seven Division 2 team state titles, uses the camp as a learning experience for himself, picking up new techniques from college coaches like Lakeland’s Mike DeRoehn and Concordia’s Corey VanGroll.
He also wanted to offer a cheaper alternative than a college camp.
“I want to get that average kid to do something during the summer instead of not doing something for nine months and coming back into the season,” Berceau said.
This year’s camp will end with scrimmages between wrestlers from the L-C, Bay Port, Oconto Falls, Two Rivers and Port Washington high school teams.
The familiarity between area wrestlers also separates Berceau’s camp from others.
“I’ve went to camps where you worked out for 2½ hours, you ate lunch for a half-hour, then you went back at it, and I didn’t know any one. It’s tougher then,” said Newton Smerchek, who will be an incoming freshman at Central Michigan after winning back-to-back D2 team and individuals titles at L-C.
Smerchek spent Wednesday at the camp before leaving to compete for Team Wisconsin at the Junior/Cadet Nationals in Fargo, N.D., this weekend.
After seeing the young talent in the gym, Smerchek said he feels the legacy he is leaving behind with the L-C program will continue to grow under Berceau.
As for the future of the camp, Berceau said that is out of hands. “I guess I’d have to talk to my wife about that to see how long it will go for.”