A Philip Barbour sophomore is looking for help from the community so he can take his wrestling skills "Down Under."
James Bell's outstanding skills on the mat provided him the opportunity to participate in a once-in-lifetime experience. Bell was selected by Down Under Sports following a successful season where he made it to the third day of the WVSSAC state wrestling tournament and finished his sophomore year with a record of 42-14.
"The trip is four days of wrestling in New Zealand representing West Virginia, three days as a cultural experience in Australia and three days of fun in Hawaii," Bell said. "I hope to experience the large-scale international wrestling tournament and learn about other people's culture. I am hoping to make some new friends that otherwise I would never meet.
PBHS sophomore James Bell defends a takedown during the 2012-2013 wrestling season. Bell was recently selected by Down Under Sports to take his talents to New Zealand and Australia. The youth is looking to raise money to help with the trip.
"It is a big world out there, and most people never have the opportunity to experience what it has to offer," he added.
Bell started wrestling in the sixth grade, but couldn't participate again until he started at Philip Barbour High School because the sport was unavailable. Bell wrestled for half of his freshman year, but was set back because of low grades.
"After getting kicked off (the team) for grades, I finished out the last two quarters of school on the honor roll," he said. "I made sure I stayed on the honor roll this whole school year. I wrestled the whole 10th-grade season and made it to states."
Bell needs assistance from the community to participate in what he describes as "a massive learning experience."
"I've never flown on a plane before, or been any farther than Pennsylvania and Ohio without my parents," he said. "So, going halfway around the world and meeting so many new people is going to be amazing. Not to mention the food - I like to eat and can't wait to try something exotic."
Bell has raised some funds for the $5,000 trip and hopes he can meet the June 1 deadline. Donations can made by visiting www.downundersports.com. Once on the website, visitors need to select the "Sponsor Athlete" link, fill in Bell's full name, select "wrestling" and fill in West Virginia for the location. The donations will help cover team clothing, airline tickets, hotel costs and any other arrangements.
Bell also needs to raise an additional $1,000 for spending money on the trip.
"I will be working and trying to save as much as I can to help," Bell said. "They only feed you twice a day, so all other meals I have to pay for. Plus, souvenirs or tourist sites have to be paid for."
Bell, who is also into martial arts and gave football a shot, likes the one-on-one battle he gets to take on when he steps onto the mat.
"In the end, unlike other sports, when the match is over the winner and loser always hug or shake hands," he said. "It was not like that when I played football. I have made so many friends from other schools through wrestling and have gone up against them. Win or lose, at the end of the day we are still friends."
Bell, a second-degree brown belt at the Philippi Martial Arts Academy, said a lot of the things he has learned from martial arts are not allowed to be used in wrestling. However, martial arts have taught him how to control his center of balance and helped his conditioning. He is taking skills from both sports and learning the basics of mixed martial arts.