6:30am

Sun September 4, 2011
Around the Nation

Gator Wrestling: 'Not A Thinking Man's Sport'

Standing in a pool full of 2-foot-long alligators, Jay Young starts teaching a class on gator wrestling.

"He who hesitates gets bit. Don't think about it," says Young, owner of Colorado Gators. "Alligator wrestling is not a thinking man's sport."

It takes a certain kind of crazy to want to pay $100 to handle animals sensible people run away from. People do sign up, however, ready to try their hands at this most extreme of sports.

The Rocky Mountain farm was originally a fish farm, founded by Young's parents in 1977. They chose the location because they could access geothermal water, the water that comes from the well is 87 degrees year-round.

"In 1987 then we got our first alligators to be garbage disposals for the fish farm," Young says.

At first they just cleaned up fish carcasses, but over the years the gators have gone from waste management to center stage. Word got out and an attraction was born.

"As soon as we opened up to the public and let people come in and start seeing our alligators, other people's pet alligators started showing up here," Young says. "We've literally come to work and found them on the doorstep."

Young has his students wading into water with increasingly large gators and showing them how to drag them around and pin them down.

"Injuries are few and far between. If you listen to the instructions, very few people get hurt — and most of them who do get hurt wear it with pride," he says. "I mean, it's a red badge of courage: 'I got a wound from an alligator.'"

The final lesson of the class: pinning down a 7-foot alligator. Amid the action, Young makes a joke about taking pictures for insurance purposes — they don't have insurance. It's hard to imagine who would insure this place.

By the time the lesson is over, at least one student is relieved the next alligator she'll see will be safely behind glass — on the Discovery Channel.

Copyright 2011 Colorado Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.cpr.org.