Little Hammers wrestling club provides year round wrestling for NP area kids

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - The Little Hammers wrestling club was founded by Craig and Ashley Kelley two years ago. The first year, the club had 45 kids, then it grew to 60.

Owner/coach Craig Kelley demonstrates a wrestling move at a practice for the Little Hammers wrestling club (Credit: Patrick Johnstone/KNOP-TV)

"We kind of just ran out of room, we had to turn some kids down this year and I don't want to turn kids down, so we started looking for a new building," Craig Kelley said.

Craig Kelley also coaches the kids in the club, and children as young as Pre-K can join.

"We stick to basics, giving them a foundation they can use to build success," he said, "I had a vision in my head of how I wanted the wrestling club to go so I talked to my wife and we decided that we were trying to open up our own club so we could run it the way that we wanted to."

The Little Hammers are the only club in North Platte to work all year, and the only club in the city to wrestle three styles. Not only do they wrestle Folkstyle, which is common in high schools and college in the country, they also wrestle Greco-Roman and Freestyle, which are the two Olympic wrestling styles.

Wrestling in three styles opened the door for 12-year-old Riley Miller to be crowned a triple crown winner.

"I worked hard for it and I earned it," Miller said on how it felt after he had won, "I cried."

Craig Kelley is originally from Lexington, and works in Holdrege, but says he is not planning on moving East, even being okay with his daily hour and a half drive, because he enjoys working with the kids in the wrestling club. His dedication to the kids and the club is reflected in the sentiment of kids in the club.

"My first two years I was going to quit, but with Little Hammers I got back into it," Miller said.

Craig Kelley says most of the newcomers over the last two years have been from word of mouth. There are even kids who belong to other clubs, but will work out with the Little Hammers during their pre-season, and go back to their own clubs for the season.

Colton Kelley, Craig and Ashley's oldest son, has been wrestling for about seven years, talked about what he feels is his best aspect in wrestling.

"Probably better pinning people," Colton Kelley said. He also added what he loves most about being involved with the Little Hammers, "I can learn moves, and I can have more friends," he said.

Miller will be entering middle school in the fall, and will be attending Maxwell Middle School. He says the preparations he is making is, "Get used to older kids, and learn to teach little kids for Little Hammers."

As for the name, Craig Kelley says it took some time to settles on the 'Little Hammers.'

"I spent weeks on names, throwing different names around. One night, around one o'clock in the morning, something just popped in my head. I woke up from a deep sleep, and I just turned to my wife, I said, 'Ashley, it's Little Hammers,' she said, 'That's great. Go back to bed.'"

The Little Hammers will be moving from their location on 5th Street, to a bigger building on A Street in early July.