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  Aug 9, 1999

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Teddy Hart opens wrestling camp

By ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun
Love it or hate it, wrestling may very well be the most watched "sport" in North America.

Yet unlike the hundreds of local minor league organizations that provide children with a place to play their sport of choice, there is nowhere for kids to learn to wrestle.

Calgary's Ted Annis, 19, is trying to change that.

Annis, one of the youngest wrestlers to sign with the World Wrestling Federation, is running a wrestling camp to give children a place to learn the ropes in a safe environment.

"Kids are going to (wrestle) with or without my school and they're going to get hurt doing it," said Annis, citing several cases in the U.S. where kids have been paralysed or killed imitating wrestlers.

"It gives kids a chance to do what they want to do. I teach kids anything they want to learn but we show them the proper and safe way to do it. This is their playground."

The oldest grandson in the massive wrestling family anchored by Stu and Helen Hart, Annis started wrestling more than four years ago.

With the help of respected coach Leo Burke, who now teaches Bret's WCW adult camp in town, he reached a talent level which prompted the WWF to sign him to a six-year deal as an 18-year-old.

However, because of the Owen Hart wrongful death lawsuit launched by several of his family members against WWF boss Vince McMahon, Annis doesn't expect to perform on the circuit for at least another year.

In the meantime, he's working on bulking up his 180-lbs. frame and teaching the camp at his father's gym, BJ's.

They've set up a padded ring and with the help of Davey Boy Smith's son Harry, 13, they teach a wide range of progressive techniques.

Open for business just a month ago, Annis already has 21 students including seven adults and 14 kids ranging in ages from seven to 18.

Classes are offered twice daily and include everything from practising moves and mock TV interviews to hearing guest speakers and doing trampoline work.

Annis occasionally takes students up to the Hart mansion to wrestle, see the dungeon and meet his uncles and famous grandfather.

He even shuttles students to and from their lessons.

"Nobody gets hurt here and the parents love it -- I've already heard testimonials from parents saying it changed their kid's life," said Annis, who is thinking about starting a similar camp for women.

"The camp gives kids an opportunity they can't get anywhere else. It also gets kids on a general path of taking care of themselves and, who knows, they may want to pursue a pro wrestling career down the road."

Dad agrees that while there are several pricey wrestling schools for adults, like the one run by his brothers-in-law, there is no grassroots system getting youngsters involved in the sport.

"Any other sport you can learn anywhere," said BJ, currently running a conditioning camp for several NHL and WHL players. "This is really a pioneering effort and he's getting a lot of heat from older people (in the biz) that are mad he's exposing the sport."

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"Men are like fine wine. They all start out like grapes, and it's our job to stomp on them and keep them in the dark until they mature into something with which you'd like to have dinner with."

-- Anonymous

For information on the school, call Ted Annis @ B.J.'s Gym, 403-262-5060

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