By Betsy Veysman
It looked like a simple mistake. The registration for the Gene Mills Eastern Nationals listed Stevo Poulin’s name twice – in the Midget division at 54 pounds and in the Juniors at 60.
It wasn’t an error.
After three titles in the event in the past, the nine-year old was looking for a few additional tough matches.
“Sometimes the younger division isn’t that much of a challenge,” Stevo said. “I wanted a bigger challenge. I’ve done it before [wrestling in two brackets] at local tournaments. I wanted to try it again.”
Although he had to shuttle back and forth between mats and on more than one occasion had to literally run from the final whistle of one match to his next bout, the Schuylerville native went 8-1 overall.
“I knew I would win the [Midget],” he said. “I thought I had a chance with the older kids because they weren’t much heavier. I was kind of close to winning.”
Poulin, who weighed in at 53 pounds, breezed through the Midget bracket and into the finals with three victories. There, he thought he might face an opponent from Maryland who he had beaten in a close match earlier in the year. However, he instead faced his practice partner, Joey Scheeren, in the title bout and came out on top by major decision.
“They were out there almost laughing in the finals. It was almost like they were telling each other knock-knock jokes,” said Steve Poulin, Stevo’s father. “We traveled with them to the tournament and [Joey and Stevo] are friends.”
Things were a bit more serious in the 60-pound division. Poulin won his first two before facing Pennsylvania’s Luke Rex. The bout went into overtime, where Poulin was penalized for scissoring the head, resulting in a victory for Rex.
Poulin bounced back to take third place, to earn two medals on the day. But that wasn’t what Steve Poulin wanted to talk about.
“When he lost, he didn’t get upset,” the father said. “He ran right over to his next match. I overheard one of the other parents saying that every kid should learn from Stevo’s match. I thought they were going to say something bad about Stevo or about the scissoring call. But instead they said other kids should learn from how he walked off the mat, held his head high and knew how to handle the loss. He handled himself really well and that made me feel really good.”
It was the first time Poulin had lost at the Eastern Nationals, an event he has enjoyed attending for several years.
“It was the first big national tournament I ever went to,” Stevo Poulin said. “I like it because Gene Mills is there and I like the awards [which are signed by Mills]. I have good luck there.”
Poulin hopes for more good luck next week at the Brute Empire Nationals (dual and individual) in Brockport. He will compete for Journeymen and he looks forward to a possible rematch with Ryan Crookham, who defeated him 4-0 last summer.
There’s also something else on his mind as the weekend approaches.
“Stevo is six wins away from 400,” his father said. “Hopefully, he’ll get there this weekend.”
If it doesn’t happen this time, there will be plenty of other opportunities as the Ohio Tournament of Champions, the Minimen Nationals and several other events are on the horizon.
“It will be a busy spring and summer,” Steve Poulin said. “But we’ll still make time for soccer and other things Stevo wants to do.”
One thing Stevo wanted to do was acknowledge another victory in the family at the Gene Mills tournament. His cousin, Orion Anderson, another outstanding youth wrestler, was the champion at 70 pounds.
A full list of Gene Mills Eastern Nationals champions will be posted when available. For more information on the tournament, see http://www.cnypin2win.com/