“The mystique of getting on a plane and traveling all the way across the country is unbelievable for the kids,” Michael LaPorte said.
A number of young wrestlers from New York will be experiencing that mystique over the next few weeks as part of a pair of NYWAY trips. On November 1, a group of elementary school grapplers will head to Las Vegas for the NUWAY Southwest Kickoff. About a week later, a contingent of middle schoolers will make the journey to California to take part in the Final Four Duals and Junior Mid Cals.
Both trips involve plenty of high quality wrestling as well as an opportunity to see the surrounding areas.
The Vegas-bound crew includes 11 students ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade.
“We wanted to give kids a chance to see a new place and showcase them in a different environment,” said Kevin Lucinski, who is leading the trip. “We’ll do a little sightseeing when we get there and then wrestle in the tournament. I think we’re all looking forward to seeing some different styles of wrestling. When you go to different parts of the country, different things are emphasized. Personally, I’m anxious to see the kids from California and Nevada. Some of the brackets have Reno Worlds placers and champions. It gives our kids a chance to test themselves and shows everyone that even if you’re the best in your state, you still have to work really hard because there are so many good wrestlers out there.”
The list of wrestlers going to Vegas includes: Carson Alberti, AJ Burkhart, Josh Gill, Michael Gonyea, Jason Hoffman, Justin Hoffman, Andy Lucinski, Jakob Lucinski, Caiden Mondore, Mitchell Seaver, Garrett Skeens and Carter Schubert.
Golden State Adventure
LaPorte, who led the trip to Northern California last year as well, never had any doubt that he wanted to return again in 2012.
“Just hearing the kids talking amongst themselves about how much fun they were having was worth all the hard work that goes into it,” he said. “I knew I wanted to do it again. It’s really important to helping the sport grow in New York and having the kids advance as much as they possibly can. Having West and East coast meet each other is something special.”
There were some exciting matchups last year for the Empire State squad. The team placed fourth at the dual meet competition and had two wrestlers win individual titles as well. Both of those grapplers, Orion Anderson and Dane Heberlein, are coming back.
“It’s always great competition,” LaPorte said. “Orion (80 pounds) was the only New York wrestler to go undefeated last year on both days. He had some close matches, but he always came out on top. I think some of those California kids will be looking for him because of his performance last year. Dane will be at 90 pounds. He’s super excited about going back. He was the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler last year and I think some of those West Coast kids will be looking for another chance at him as well.”
Also returning is Matthew Laporte (70 pounds), who registered a number of victories in 2011. Joining the team will be Isaiah Bailey, Anthony Cirillo, Grant Cuomo, Antonio Cutrie, Connor Fredericks, Michael Gonyea, Jason Hoffman, Stephen Kapuscinski, Zach Kornberg and Dillan Palaszewski.
What excites LaPorte about the squad is that it brings wrestlers from all over the Empire State.
“The really good thing is that we were able to get a nice balance of the state with the addition of a few Long Island kids this year,” LaPorte said. “Just about every area of New York has some representation, which is a good, healthy sign.”
According to NYWAY President Clint Wattenberg, the organization is working to expand to cover more of the Empire State this coming season.
“In representing New York with wrestlers from all corners of the state, it helps us get the word out about the many things that we are trying to do to increase opportunities for our young wrestlers. This year we hope to have the same broad representation at our NYWAY State Championships, which will serve to coalesce our season.”
As is the case with the Vegas trip, NYWAY will be covering a large portion of the wrestler costs. According to LaPorte, the cost to each wrestler to go to California, including airfare, hotel, custom singlets, event entry costs is $250.
Like last year, the team will take some time to explore San Francisco in addition to both a dual event and an individual tournament.
“We’ll get there on Friday and have some time to rest,” he said. “Then, we’ll wrestle in the Final Four duals on Saturday and the Mid Cals on Sunday. On Monday, which is a holiday, our agenda is to take the kids sightseeing – the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf. It will be a great end to the trip.”
As for accomplishments on the mat, LaPorte said he’d like to improve upon last year’s fourth place showing in the duals.
“We’d like to be top three as a team this time,” he said. “And we want to place as many kids as possible into the finals on the second day. But the biggest thing for me is making sure that it’s a great experience for the kids. It’s great for them to know there’s so much more out there in wrestling and outside of it. It’s really rewarding for me as a coach to be part of it.”