Arab youth wrestling

Colby Silva, center right, holding a special pair of shoes, won his second straight youth state wrestling title last week wearing those shoes. From left are his brother, Emmett, granddad Jerry Silva, Colby, and dad Josh.

In the late 1980s commercials for Nike’s Air Jordan sneakers, Spike Lee, as Mars Blackmon, kept asking Michael Jordan what made him so great on the basketball court.

Finally, despite’s Jordan’s denials, Blackmon figured, “It’s gotta be the shoes!”

Perhaps the shoes help explain the success of young Arab wrestler Colby Silva, who last Saturday won his second straight state championship at the Alabama Youth Wrestling Organization-AAU state tournament at Thompson High School in Alabaster.

Then again, it also could be the genes.

Silva, who won this year in the Novice 80-pound weight class, has two older brothers competing for the Knights this season, 14-year-old Logan, an eighth grader, and 16-year-old Austin, a sophomore.

Their dad, Josh Silva, also was an accomplished wrestler before he took up bullriding. And their grandfather, Jerry, was a champion wrestler in high school and college.

That’s where Colby’s shoe story comes in. Much of last year and almost all of this year, Colby competed for the Knights Wrestling Club wearing the shoes his granddad wore when he won the 1978 state title for Montrose Hill McCloy High School in Montrose, Mich.

Toward the end of this season, Colby coaxed his grandmother, Jerry’s wife Gelena, into purchasing him some new shoes.

When they made the purchase, the salesperson asked Colby why he had been competing in the old shoes he wore into the store. Colby told him it was because his granddaddy had worn them while winning the state championship years ago.

Then came the stunning news. The wrestling shoes Colby had been wearing – a pair of Onitsuka Tigers – were worth more than $300.

At that point, Colby made a decision. He would wear his new Rudis shoes at the state championship.

“I wanted to put the (vintage) shoes in a glass box,” Colby, 12, said this week.

He had made one exception. If he made it to the final, he said, he wanted to wear granddad’s shoes one last time.

He did, and he won, thrilling his entire family.

Jerry, who won his title in 1978 at 112 pounds, was particularly proud and intrigued. Colby’s new shoes cost his grandparents $95. Jerry’s shoes cost $18 – a fairly high price back in the mid-1970s.

“My parents thought it was a lot of money,” Jerry said, smiling, but only half-joking.

Colby, a sixth grader who started wrestling in the Tot division as a 5-year-old, will graduate to school wrestling next year. He currently weighs 82 pounds and his granddad hopes he can put on some weight between now and next season.

“I’m hoping he can get to the low to mid-90s, to at least challenge at 106 (pounds),” Jerry said.

If he does, Jerry is certain his grandson can compete with anyone.

“He’s learned a lot, from his brothers and from hanging around the mats and watching all the older wrestlers,” he said.

Colby wasn’t the only Arab club wrestler to win at state. Cutter Davis, a 7-year-old, also took first place at Tot 45. Nolan Dunn, 10, placed second in Midget 70.

And Colby’s younger brother, 7-year-old Emmett Silva, placed third in Bantam 65.

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