There was no elementary school wrestling team when Ren Shoop attended Jim Thorpe High School.

In fact, Shoop had to wait until his sophomore year to take part in intramural wrestling and waited until his junior year to compete as a varsity wrestler, the first year for the program.

He's stayed around the sport long since graduating from Jim Thorpe High in 1966. And now he'll return to the wrestling program where his career started.

Third-year Olympian varsity head coach Shawn Albert has put Shoop at the helm of his elmentary school team. Albert knows that Shoop, a Jim Thorpe Hall of Famer, excels at working with with pre-K to sixth grade wrestlers.

"Ren is the guy I targeted toward the end of last year," Albert said. "My assistant coach, Jerry LeVan and I knew we needed to get somebody down there that had experience coaching that age group. Having him be a Jim Thorpe guy was an added bonus.

"Not only will we have someone that the kids can look up to, but he has the experience to help our program in the long run. We hope this move help builds the numbers, but also hope it helps with the progression in developing our quality athletes."

Shoop looks forward to leading the elementary school wrestlers in the right direction and guiding them through the program.

"One thing I want to make clear is it's not one guy," Shoop said. "It's the program itself and it starts from the top down. Coach Albert and I talked after he had found out that I had retired from Palmerton. We were on the same page from the first time we talked.

"It takes everyone working together with the same goal in mind and I'm looking forward to that. Everyone has to be on the same page and these guys definitely are. They're in it for the program and that makes a big difference."

Shoop recently retired after serving 11 years with the Palmerton Elementary School team. He wasn't away from the sport very long before the opportunity arose at his alma mater.

Shoop is already working with Albert and the Jim Thorpe Takedown Club by running some summer sessions, working with wrestlers of all ages. The sessions run from 7 to 8 p.m. at the JT wrestling room and will be available again from July 25-30 and from August 13-22.

Shoop knows how to keep the younsters interested in wrestling and teach them to be successful.

"With the little kids," he said. "It's got to be fun. It's got to be basics. And it's got to be repetition. It has to be presented as is. My opinion is wrestlers are without a doubt the greatest athletes in any athletic program.

"It has to be presented to the kids that way and they have to understand that what they're doing is worth something to them, for them. I think that's a big, important part of it. That's what we will try to do."

The hardest part is keeping youngsters interested until they reach the high school level.

"You have to understand that you're working with them as wrestlers and you're talking about the best athletes in the school," Shoop said. "They could probably go to any other sport in the school they choose, but the question becomes what's in it for them. And it should be what's in it for them.

"Why is this important to me? What is the worth of wrestling more important to me than the worth of another winter sport? That's what we try to get them to answer."

Albert likes the steps his program at has been taking over his first two years.

"I'm really excited about what's going on with our program," Albert said. "Everybody serves a purpose within our program. I know we have the right people in place right now to do good things. It's been great."