Their operation is one part school, one part wrestling club.
In a unique business venture, Jeff Estrada and Luke Morris seek to provide their athletes not only with elite training but also with schooling that doesn’t battle their sports schedules.
Sons of Thunder Academy, based in Castle Rock, runs a wrestling club in one half of its building and a K-12 Hope Online Learning Academy in the other.
Of their 60 wrestlers, 35 attend the online school, Estrada and Morris said. An additional 15 kids are Hope Online students only. The education format provides a nice balance between attending a public school and the isolation of homeschooling, Estrada said. Wrestlers who aren’t Hope Online students attend various area public schools.
Most importantly, Estrada and Morris said, Hope Online allows student athletes with rigorous schedules to make their education work for them.
The coaches’ wrestlers come from all backgrounds. Each week, boys and girls alike take to the mats undergoing repetitious drills under their watchful eye, all in hopes of bringing home the next title on their bucket list.
“When 3:30 p.m. hits, man we come in here to grind,” Estrada said overlooking the gym.
Although they consider the club elite, they train all levels of proficiency. Wrestlers hail from throughout Colorado and from out of state. Estrada makes sure the kids are working out hard, building strength and cardio, while Morris specializes in fundamentals and technique.
“We make it fun,” Morris said. “But the sport is demanding.”
They make rounds to an average of 40 tournaments a year, he said. Individual athletes may travel to tournaments once or twice a month, but for some it’s more.
The students, however, don’t seem to mind.
Morris’ 14-year-old son Ivan, who’s wrestled since he was 6, said traveling is one of the best parts of being in the Sons of Thunder club.
Antonio Segura, 15, who drives 45 minutes or more each day from his home in Thornton, says the challenging workouts give him a satisfactory feeling.
The training is also bringing in results.
Just ask 10-year-old Thomas Verrette. He’s won three national titles, earning what they call the Trinity Award, one of the most coveted wrestling honors.
Through squinted eyes and a hushed voice he’ll tell you what he likes about wrestling — and that’s winning.
Jerzie Estrada, Jeff Estrada’s 16-year-old daughter, has won a national title and two state championships. She’s hoping to turn that into four, and wrestle for Douglas County High School next year.
Among the 15 female wrestlers at Sons of Thunder, 10 are nationally ranked, Estrada said
Jerzie, like many of the athletes at Sons of Thunder, began wrestling at 5 years old. Through the help of the academy, the young athletes said they undergo more strenuous workouts than in other clubs they joined, and focus on more technique.
Estrada and Morris will be the first to admit they challenge their athletes, but with titles piling up, their high coaching standards are paying off.
“We have,” Estrada said, “some of the best kids in the country in our room.”