Gay Games brings wrestling coach back to the mat

Carlin Yetts, right, participated in the NOH8 campaign - Adam Bouska

Carlin Yetts had not wrestled competitively since high school, but with the Gay Games in his home state he is back learning a new discipline.

Gay Games 9 takes place in Cleveland & Akron, Ohio, Aug. 9-16. You can register here - be part of the fun with Carlin  and other LGBT athletes!

I have always been an athlete. The tradition comes from my brothers, cousin, uncles, grandfather and great grandfather. As in ancient Greece, wrestling is the sport of the gods and my family.

I finished my high school career by going to the West Virginia state tournament twice and placing fifth in  my senior year. Being content with how I was going to finish my career as a wrestler, I decided to stick with my sport for the next 12 years and become a coach. Like many say, those who can’t do, they coach. I coached at Ionia High school in Honolulu; Harding Middle School in Steubenville, Ohio; Dublin Coffman High School in  Dublin, Ohio; Eastmoor Academy in Columbus, Ohio; and now at Dodge Recreation Center in Columbus. My teams have won several local tournaments and I helped individual wrestlers reach their personal goals. I was content where I was going in my wrestling career as a coach.

In 2011, while on Facebook, I caught wind of an event called the Gay Games. Not knowing what they were or the origin of how they started, I decided to "like" their page; by  the luck of the draw I was their 700th like. I was contacted by Marc Naimark of the Federation of Gay Games and he wanted to do a write up on me and wanted to know if I was going to participate in the Gay Games. That is when I went from a coach back to being an athlete again.

I was then contacted by Gene Dermody and Roger Bringham the heads of the international organization Wrestlers Without Boarders. They were very excited to get me to come out to San Francisco for their WWB Cup wrestling tournament. I hadn’t wrestled or really trained in years for a wrestling tournament but I decided to compete. I was very apprehensive to go because I had never wrestled freestyle before in my life and knew nothing about the rules or how to score points.

I trained all summer by working out and watching video on how freestyle worked trying to pick up the scoring and wrestling. September rolled around and I headed out to San Francisco into the unknown. It was my first trip out west since I went to Hawaii.

Walking through the Castro to get to the Golden Gate Wrestling Club practice I grew nervous, but as any wrestler will tell you being nervous shows that you are ready. Walking into the practice I was greeted by Roger who welcomed me with a huge hug and was very excited to have me there. I felt at home. That weekend I wrestled two matches and lost by 2 points on each because of the rules of freestyle I was still trying to pick up. I even got best match of the tournament which surprised me because I thought I was horrible.

Over the next two years I made it a point to go to San Francisco for the next WWB cups. Over that time I am now a sitting member on the WWB board and Federation of Gay Games Board, started perfecting my freestyle wrestling and started Cbus Wrestling Club, which is Columbus' only adult wrestling club, and getting my team ready for the Gay Games in our home state. I welcome all wrestlers to come to the Cleveland.

Gay Games 9 takes place in Cleveland & Akron, Ohio, Aug. 9-16. You can register here - be part of the fun with George and other LGBT athletes!

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