After finishing the NYWAY Spring Statewide Retreat on the last weekend of April, some of the organization’s leadership presented a check for $540 to the Keep Olympic Wrestling effort.
“We really believe in the Olympic movement,” said NYWAY President Clint Wattenberg. “We wanted to support the cause as best we could. Whether it’s in the Olympic styles or folkstyle, it’s critical to our mission to provide opportunities for wrestlers in New York.”
In its second year of operations, NYWAY no doubt provided opportunities, including reaching out to less experienced grapplers and expanding into new areas of the state.
In February, the group hosted its first novice event, in conjunction with the NCAA Division I National Duals at Cornell University, to give those just starting out in the sport a chance to compete in a tournament setting. According to Wattenberg, there are plans to put together a four-week season in 2014 which would culminate in a novice state championship.
In 2013 the organization also expanded its geographic footprint, as regional qualifiers were hosted in two new areas – Long Island and Hudson Valley.
As a result, the NYWAY state championships boasted over 900 participants with representation from all corners of New York. In fact, each of the eight regions had grapplers standing high on the podium.
“Being able to have all areas of the state involved in the state championship was incredible,” Wattenberg said. “It made it a real state championship. It was successful, but as with any growth, there are growing pains.”
Addressing some of those is part of the plan for 2014.
One hot button issue in the postseason events this year was the officiating. As a result of much discussion and debate, only New York State certified officials will be used for the NYWAY regional and state tournaments next year for all levels of competition.
“We listened to the various feedback and we had to weigh our original reasons for integrating our NYS college wrestlers into youth development tournaments as referees with the need to earn the confidence of our coaches and parents and keep the kids safe. In the end, we unanimously supported the use of certified officials for all championship events,” Wattenberg said. “That said, we still want to help keep our older wrestlers involved in youth development however we can.”
In addition to the refereeing changes, Wattenberg said there will be a major effort to improve IT systems. In an attempt to both simplify and standardize, NYWAY will be providing the opportunity for all of its tournaments to move onto a common technology platform, including Track Wrestling. This is in part due to the generous donations of the G2 World Wrestling Academy and will enable tournament hosting and planning to be easier for parents, coaches and event hosts.
And to standardize even more, the regions will be realigned to follow the high school sectional borders exactly. What does that mean? The Central region now includes all of Section 3, the Northern encompasses the combined forces of Sections 7 and 10 and the Capital houses Section 2.
But despite these changes, there will be plenty of things that will stay the same.
For example, NYWAY will continue to support travel of New York wrestlers to get new competition. Wattenberg noted that a greater emphasis will be placed on sponsoring regional trips that are within driving distance to maximize the investment.
Going on those trips won’t be the only way to be exposed to top notch wrestling, however. NYWAY has allocated funds to each region to provide free clinics with accomplished NYS college wrestlers and coaches.
The first of these took place last week and featured current Finger Lakes Wrestling Club and future Cornell wrestler (and three-time New York State champion) Brian Realbuto at Chittenango High School. Another free opportunity will occur on May 18 at Owego Free Academy, with four-time All-American and 2012 NCAA champion Cam Simaz of the Big Red.
“We want to reach all wrestlers, regardless of ability or experience to keep them connected to wrestling and what wrestling can provide them in the future,” Wattenberg said. “There are a lot of communities that don’t have the chance to cross paths with college wrestlers. We want to help make those connections.”
Wattenberg feels making those connections is important, as is increasing the pool of college wrestlers in New York.
“We already have raised around $7,000 for the President’s Wrestling Fund, which is dedicated to increasing college wrestling programs around the state,” Wattenberg said. “We’re actively working with some schools to initiate college programs.”
It’s fair to say that it has been an eventful second year for NYWAY – and now the organization is looking forward.
“Our mission is to improve both the quality and opportunity of wrestling participation for developing New York State wrestlers and we think we’ve developed the organization and a product that do just that,” Wattenberg said. “We’re looking to take a couple more steps toward that in 2014.”
A few key dates have already been identified for the next NYWAY season:
December 28-29, 2013 NYWAY Kickoff Open
–On the 28th, there will be a dual meet championship, featuring a K-6 team from each region
–On the 29th, there will be an individual tournament for wrestlers K-8
March 8-9, 2014, Regional Championships
March 15-16 State Championships (Onondoga Community College)