What Age Should We Start Wrestling?
Wrestling is one of those sports that takes years (at least a decade) of proper drilling and practice to perfect, and even then there are things you still need to work on. It makes sense to say that the earlier you start wrestling, the better.
The youngest guys we have at Red Hawk are around 6 years old and about 45 pounds. This isn't to say someone who is 5 can't try it out. Kids mature mentally quicker at different ages. If they can mentally make it through a practice then they should be given the opportunity.
Some do try and falter before practice is over. Things happen - you get hit in the head or choked by accident, especially during hand-fighting or live wrestling. Some kids start crying and want to leave, but others handle it just fine. The general answer is, "try it and see how he does". If his attention can be held for 2 hours without accidents he's a fine candidate.
Time With Technique
When you're young your mind is like a sponge, and can learn even high level technique given enough time. Our goal at Red Hawk is to create college level wrestlers at a young age. We teach them hand-fighting, scrambling, legs, etc - so they have lots of practice with those moves before high school.
And believe us, young ones can learn legs just fine. We have some as young as 7 years old doing quite well with legs. The more time you have with technique, the longer you have to correct the little mistakes and perfect it.
Strength With Technique
Like lifting, the more you do a move, the stronger you get with it. Each move uses a complicated array of muscle groups to perform properly, and when you repeatedly drill them you develop those muscles.
For example: the power half is the main move to pin opponents when leg riding. Imagine how strong they'll be with a power half if they practice it from 8-14 years old. High school opponents' shoulders will have no chance.
You can apply this concept with a lot of other technique. The more time they have drilling moves and executing them in matches, the stronger they are with it when they're older.
High School Anomalies
We have seen some wrestlers start in high school and go on to be incredibly successful. The first name that comes to mind is Zach Rey from Lehigh University. He ended up being a state champion before high school was out and was a national champion in college and an All-American multiple times. Keep in mind, this is an exception, not necessarily a rule.
Not trying to take anything away from his accomplishments, we're friends with Zach, he's a great guy, but he did wrestle heavyweight and he is an exceptional athlete. Heavyweight does tend to be less technical than the lower weights. Zach is a beast, does back-flips at his size, so you know he always had the strength and explosive power in check. This is part of the reason he shined above the rest.
More On Zach: Immediate Good Technique
Zach was from Hopatcong, NJ, but practiced often at Blair Academy. So right out of the gate he was getting high quality instruction by some of the best wrestling coaches. The benefit being that they didn't have to fix any bad habits of Zach's, because he was new and didn't have any. It's a lot easier to get better if you're taught the right things as soon as you start wrestling.
With this concept, it doesn't seem like it matters when you start wrestling, but who you are learning from when you do. The earlier you start and the better coaching you receive, the more likely you'll find success.
Be Careful With Your Wrestler's Technique
Be on the lookout for low percentage technique: mixer, murkle, flying cement job, far side power half without parallel leg riding, chin whips, headlocks, etc. These moves, while they work sometimes, do not work a large majority of the time, especially later.
They are desperation moves and should only be attempted if time is running out and the match score is too far from reach. If performed too much, they create bad habits that are tough to fix.
We at Red Hawk do not allow them in our room altogether, nor do we teach them. They are too ineffective later in their career and can stunt their wrestling IQ.
TL;DR (Too Long, Didn't Read)
As soon as your child's mental maturity allows, 5-6, but make sure the coaching is high quality.