Wrestling club partners with online school to give student athletes tailored experience

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. -- What if your kid started and ended their day with wrestling? Such a thing exists on a campus in Castle Rock because of a partnership between an online charter school and a non-profit wrestling club.

Luke Morris is one of the head coaches and a principal at Sons of Thunder Academy. It is a unique opportunity as most of the students can adjust their education according to their training commitments, all while stepping outside of a traditional classroom setting.

Sons of Thunder and Hope Online Learning Academy have worked together for the last six years on a joint venture called the Universal Learning Center. The campus enrolls grades K-12 and several dozen students are also active wrestlers with Sons of Thunder, according to Morris.

Sixteen year-old Kaden Campbell has been training since the sixth grade and has aspirations to compete in the Olympics someday.

“We talked my mom into it and I tried it and just had a natural talent for and fell in love with it.”

Campbell told Denver7 the Universal Learning Center has given her the chance to perfect her wrestling skills and her school work, something her coach Morris wanted for all of his students.

Students come and take some courses in person and some online and train throughout the day. They can also rearrange their schedules accordingly, if they have a tournament that takes them out of town for several days.

“So it was hard with their regular schooling. You know we were always getting in trouble with their teachers and principals and stuff for missing so many days. So it just made sense,” Morris said. “We started with four kids that did homeschooling and we saw success in their wrestling and also saw success in their education.”

Kaden was already driving an hour and a half each way from Greeley every day and felt this was the perfect fit for her. She will be part of the first high school graduating class under this program.

Recently, the Department of Education flagged the Hope Online Learning Academy for its low performing academic scores. It’s unclear if the Universal Learning Center is one of the schools that “received ratings in the bottom two levels of the state’s accountability system for six consecutive years,” as quoted from a recent press release.

Morris said that’s not the case and his wrestlers are excelling on and off the mats.

“We’ve had over 20 national champs at some of the biggest and some of the toughest tournaments in the country. We’ve  had four or five world team members,” he told Denver7.

Kaden said low grades are unacceptable on this campus and she’s a better student than ever.

 “I’m already being taught that I have to  keep up with my schoolwork on my own, so I think that’s really helpful.”


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