Beyond the mat: new 5C Spartans wrestling club is committed to redefining the sport’s culture

A drawing of three people smiling and flexing in brightly colored wrestling outfits.
The Claremont Spartans, 5C’s club wrestling team, are the newest 5C club sport (Sasha Matthews • The Student Life)

With all the ingredients ready to go, the Claremont Spartans, the newest dish on the 5C club sports menu, just need a little more time in the oven.

The 5C co-ed wrestling club is in the beginning stages of its development, but founder Saif El Mosalami PZ ’26 believes the club could become a full-fledged team with consistent practices and competitions in the near future.

After only officially beginning to recruit members a few weeks ago, there are already dozens of interested students of all genders and skills from every school. The sport holds deep cultural, religious and emotional significance for the club’s founders, who are hoping to share their love of the sport in a supportive space — free from the toxicity around weight that can hang heavy in the sport.

El Mosalami said he had the idea to create a wrestling club during his freshman year after he noticed enthusiasm among his peers but found no opportunities to meet the demand.

“Everyone I was around had a lot of interest in [wrestling] and I saw it basically as a hole in club sports,” El Mosalami said.

Last spring, El Mosalami discussed the idea with his club rugby teammate Yohanan Brown CM ’26, and the two former high school wrestlers decided to form the club.

Though all the members of Spartans’ leadership have prior experience in the sport, Brown explained that the club hopes to serve not only as an outlet for veteran competitors, but also as a learning environment for those trying the sport for the first time.

“We want to create a space that’s open to everyone,” Brown said. “No one needs any skills to join. We’re going to meet them at their level and have fun throwing each other around.”

Although fun and competition are at the core of the goals of the club, for some members, the activity of wrestling has a deeper significance.

Ali Abu Bakr CM ’26, one of the Spartans’ founders and vice president of the Muslim Student Association (MSA), explained that for himself and other Arab-Muslims, wrestling and self-defense is a cultural and religious practice.

“It’s what our prophet did, so it’s a good thing to do. He wrestled and so it’s part of our religion to wrestle,” Abu Bakr said. “I don’t think [the club] is going to be marketed specifically toward Muslim students in any way. But that demographic is definitely there, so we will reach out to them.”

According to El Mosalami, the Arabic word “sunnah” signifies the practices of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) that Muslims are encouraged to follow — one of these customs is wrestling.

Brown also described how wrestling has played a substantial role within his personal life.

“Wrestling for me was a way to be more confident,” Brown said. “When I started, I was very shy and nervous and you saw that when I wrestled. As I got older, in my junior and senior years, I became a lot more confident on and off the mat because I was wrestling.”

Despite the positive impacts wrestling has had on the club’s founders, they also acknowledged the sport’s darker side. El Mosalami experienced one of wrestling’s most common issues in high school when he was asked to lose weight unsafely in order to be able to compete in a certain weight class.

I had to weight-cut in high school – it was not fun,” El Mosalami said. “I cut 10 pounds in two days, which is almost impossible without water cutting [depriving oneself of water for an extended period of time and doing extraneous exercise], which could be very dangerous.”

El Mosalami said the Spartans are going to change that culture by never asking any member to alter their weight for competition.

“We’re not going to instate those [weight-cuts],” El Mosalami said. “We just want a setting where people are going to have fun. We’re going to have people wrestling their normal weight.”

Another way that El Mosalami said the Spartans are redefining the sport is through their gender inclusivity. In the past, wrestling has been a very male-dominated sport, only allowing women to compete at the Olympic level starting in 2004. However, according to El Mosalami, the Spartans are not just open to, but even excited for, people of all genders to join.

“There’s a lot of women who have already signed up,” El Mosalami said. “I think that’s amazing because in general they’re coming in with a lot more experience than the guys. We would love to have them … and honestly I cannot wait to see how they perform in competitions.”

El Mosalami said he wants as many people to join the Spartans.

“No experience required, we will teach all experience levels,” El Mosalami said. “Join the Claremont Spartans — our name is badass.”

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