"A New Level of Connectedness to the State": NYWAY Develops Long Island Board; Opens Development Tourneys to Non-Members

Connecting all areas of New York wrestling is something NYWAY President Clint Wattenberg has talked about from the first day the organization started.

He believes another significant step has been taken toward that goal with the recent development of a NYWAY Long Island regional board.

“We’ve been looking to bring a new level of connectedness to the state,” Wattenberg said. “One of our main agenda items over the past year has been developing boards in all the regions around New York.  This board in Long Island is bringing together some great people and will build upon the collaboration between upstate and downstate.”

Taking charge of the new board is Gary Redding, who is involved in youth sports as the Director of Middle Country girls lacrosse.

“Gary is really motivated and has a great understanding of youth sports and the educational component of wrestling,” Wattenberg said. “He understands what youth sports can provide kids to support their growth.”

Redding said he got involved partially because of the experience he had with the organization last year.

“I did the NYWAY state tournament with my son and I thought it was phenomenal,” he said. “The way they ran it was great – with the right idea that it’s about the kids. Everyone wants to have a unified, true state tournament with participation from everywhere and if NYWAY can facilitate that, that’s great.  I want to help Long Island be a big part of that.”

For this year, Redding said he is looking to solidify the board, which currently includes five members and another five or six who are “Friends of the Board.” The hope is to have one or two tournaments on Long Island this year and continue to build that number over time.

In the short term, Redding is excited to work toward strong Nassau and Suffolk involvement in the major NYWAY events this year.

“We’ve already started putting together our dual team for the NYWAY Kickoff in late December,” he said. “We anticipate having a lot of kids at the Kickoff events, the regional qualifier (especially because it shouldn’t conflict with the Freestyle and Greco states this year) and the state tournament.”

Having a lot of kids at events all over New York is something NYWAY is hoping to encourage with a new initiative.

From the 2013 NYWAY State championships, Photo courtesy of John Drew/cnywrestling.com

“We’re doing something different this year that’s very simple but could make a world of difference,” Wattenberg said.  “We’re enabling any wrestler to enroll in NYWAY development tournaments (which does not include the Kickoff, state qualifiers or state championships) without being a NYWAY member.  Both NYS wrestlers without a NYWAY membership and out of state wrestlers can simply register for tournaments through our website nyway.org for a day-insurance fee ($5 for NYS and $2 for out-of-state).   We’re looking to reduce barriers to participation and to provide opportunities rather than force people to choose one organization over another.  Once we get young wrestlers and families in the door, we are confident that the expanding opportunities and consistency of these experiences will help retain and grow participation in the sport we all love.”

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Wattenberg also noted that NYWAY regional boards across the state are continuing to build and welcome input.  Other Regional Directors/Contacts:

Capital: Michael LaPorte- michaellaporte202@yahoo.com

Central: Mel Cutrie- mscutrie@gmail.com

Far Western- Kevin Lucinski- kslucinski@yahoo.com

Hudson Valley: Jeff Jones- jjones987@yahoo.com

Long Island: Gary Redding- nywayli@gmail.com

Northern: Randy Morrison- nnyywl@hotmail.com

Southern Tier: Kent Maslin- kent.maslin@gmail.com

Western: Adam Burgos- adamburgos@g2wrestling.com

 

Some Key NYWAY Dates for 2013-14

Kickoff Classic Dual Team Tournament, December 28 (SUNY Sullivan)

Kickoff Classic Individual Tournament, December 29 (SUNY Sullivan)

State Tournament, March 15-16 (Onondaga County Community College)

 

For more information on NYWAY, see NYWAY Flyer Year 3 Update(1)

Clint Wattenberg Selected for the Cornell University Athletic Hall of Fame

On September 21, Clint Wattenberg will be one of 12 new members inducted into the Cornell University Athletic Hall of Fame.

Wattenberg, a two-time All-American for the Big Red at 184 pounds, owned the second most wins in Big Red history at the time of his graduation. He also was a three-time All-Ivy pick, an EIWA champion and the recipient of the Peter J. Floros Memorial Award, honoring Cornell’s Most Valuable Wrestler.

The California native, who took third at the 2004 Olympic Trials, was an assistant coach on Rob Koll’s staff after completing his collegiate career.  He has remained in Ithaca where he wears many hats, including as Specialty Nutritionist for the Cornell Healthy Eating Program,  Coordinator of Sports Nutrition for Cornell Athletics and President of NYWAY (New York Wrestling Association for Youth). He also has been an integral leader at the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club since its inception.

For the full story from cornellbigred.com, see this link.

What's Next?: Reviewing NYWAY's Second Season and Looking Forward to Year 3

 
 

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.”

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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)

 

 

 

At the Second Annual NYWAY State Championships Over 900 Wrestlers Compete; Cobra Wrestling Academy Takes Team Title

According to Cobra Wrestling Academy Executive Director Keith Maute, Sunday was a great day.

The fact that he got married was the obvious and most important reason for that sentiment.

But Maute admitted that he took glances at his phone at points during the day for another reason – to check on how his wrestlers were doing at the NYWAY State Championships in Elmira.

The Cobra grapplers gave him a wedding present as the Buffalo-area club captured the team title by a slim two-point margin over Journeymen a year after finishing second in a close race behind G2 World Wrestling Academy (third in 2013).

“I’m really excited that we won,” he said. “I’m really excited for the kids, our club and our section. Last year we lost by a point or two and this year we’re on the flip side of that.  The fact that it was a tight team race makes it exciting for everyone.  It’s really nice to have 20 kids in the finals and another bunch of All-State kids.”

Cobra was led by 10 champions and 10 second placers**, as well as another six bronze medalists.  The champions were: Cooper Gronowski, JJ Lucinski, Justin McDougald, Tyler Bartolomei, Hector Colom, Jacob Brewer, Tito Colom, Jake Weber, Carson Alberti and Dane Heberlein.  The last two, Alberti and Heberlein, won this event last year as well.

But taking the championship this season was a bit different than doing so in the inaugural NYWAY event in 2012.  The tournament had over 930 participants this weekend as opposed to 640 a year ago and had representation from the all corners of New York this time, something that wasn’t quite the case before.

“We were extremely happy with the number of wrestlers we had and especially that we had a cross section from across the state,” said NYWAY President Clint Wattenberg. “We had at least 50 kids from each of the eight regions.  Every region had some champions and it was really a unifying event across the state.”

Courtesy of NYWAY

Making Wattenberg equally excited was the quality of the competition.  For example, a pair of state silver medalists – Vincent DePrez of G2/Hilton and Connor Lapresi of the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club/Lansing squared off in a match won by DePrez in sudden victory in the semifinals in the high school division.  (It was a good weekend to be named DePrez as all four brothers – Vincent, Anthony, Louie and Sam – took first at the event).

In addition to DePrez and Lapresi, many others who competed at the Times Union Center in late February also took part. In fact, the 113-pound bracket in Division 6 included All-Staters Ryan Hetrick and Kelan McKenna as well as Eastern States champion Chris Cuccolo. And none of those accomplished wrestlers came out on top; instead it was 30-plus match winner Blake Abbey of Corning (who won this tournament at 103 pounds in 2012).

Similarly, the younger divisions featured wrestlers who have placed and won prestigious youth tournaments across the country.  Some of those picked up their second straight NYWAY State championship, including (in Division 2) Waverly’s Bryce Bailey, G2’s Jayden Scott, the previously mentioned Carson Alberti and Lockport’s JR Leuer; in Division 3 Stevo Poulin of Journeymen and Myles Griffin of Mexico and in Division 4 Journeymen’s Michael Gonyea and Dillan Palaszewski as well as Orion Anderson and Benny Baker.  (Repeat gold medalists in Divisions 5 and 6 were Dandre Norman of Edge, Andrew McFarland of Carthage and the previously discussed Dane Heberlein and Blake Abbey).

Courtesy of NYWAY

For the full list of placers from first to fourth in each division and weight, see here.

While this weekend’s action at the First Arena in Elmira represented the largest event on NYWAY’s calendar, Wattenberg stressed that the second-year organization is much more than just a state championship tournament.

“It was a great, but it’s only a small part of our mission,” Wattenberg said. “We’re dedicated to creating continuity and direction for New York wrestling.  It’s all about the lifecycle of developmental wrestling and tying it all together at the youth, high school and college levels.  We want to find out where we’re losing people and try to help fill those gaps.  We think one of the critical pieces of the development puzzle in New York is in modified wrestling.  That’s why having Division 5 (middle school and some freshmen) as our biggest division at this event was encouraging.  New York continues to lose modified programs or have the mat time cut down significantly.  We feel that this is a role we can fill in the state, helping develop wrestlers that aren’t getting what they need through modified programs.”

Of course, it’s no secret that wrestling is losing more than the modified level.  The IOC’s decision to drop the sport from the 2020 Olympic Games is fresh on the minds of fans and Wattenberg said all $600 of total proceeds from the sales of programs will be donated to the ‘Keep Wrestling in the Olympics’ movement.

In addition, a portion of every online NYWAY transaction this season has been allocated to the President’s Fund, which is dedicated to strengthening and advancing college wrestling.  According to Wattenberg, that money will be “spread around to not only strengthen current programs in New York but to encourage additional schools in the state to start new wrestling programs.”

The link with the college level of wrestling wasn’t hard to see over the weekend.  On Saturday night, Cornell All-Americans Kyle Dake, Steve Bosak and Mike Nevinger attended the event, signing autographs and talking with participants and fans.

Meanwhile, some of their peers were on the mat – as referees.

Photo by John Drew

“It’s core to our mission to reintegrate college wrestlers into youth wrestling to help the next generation,” Wattenberg said. “Having a group of officials being college age wrestlers, along with veterans as the head officials, helps keep that development cycle going and makes the wrestling community stronger.  That’s the reason we like to stick to that format, but we are trying to integrate some other experienced officials as well.  As a whole, the feedback on the structure and set up of the tournament was positive.”

And so the second NYWAY season came to a close with Cobra standing on the top step.   While Maute kept tabs on the day’s events from his wedding, he expects to be in attendance in 2014 to help his club defend its crown.

“This tournament grew so much in just one year,” Maute said. “It’s awesome that there were almost 1000 kids there this year. Hopefully next year it will be 1300 wrestlers or even more.”

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Wattenberg wished to thank the NYWAY Board of Directors, especially the state tournament committee (Kristine Maslin, Adam Burgos, Kevin Lucinski, Mel Cutrie) for their time and dedication and for making decisions with “best intentions to provide opportunities and create a level playing field.”  He also wished to thank Eric Padelford for setting up the technology portion of the event, especially on short notice.

 

**Some of the Cobra wrestlers, according to Maute, weren’t listed under Cobra in the brackets

Great Experience + Experience Greatness = NYWAY's Future Stars and National Duals at Cornell on Sunday

Two different ends of the wrestling spectrum will be represented on the campus of Cornell University on Sunday.

In the afternoon, the Big Red will host the quarterfinal round of the NWCA National Duals, including a trio of top 15 teams – the host school plus Nebraska and Virginia, as well as Hofstra, which had Cornell on the ropes after five weights in last week’s dual.

But before some of the top college wrestlers in the country take the mat, grapplers who are just getting their start in the sport will compete in a very different event.

NYWAY’s Future Stars State Championships tournament is open to first or second year wrestlers up through eighth grade who want an opportunity to get some competitive experience.

“There’s a gaping hole in New York for development,” said NYWAY President Clint Wattenberg. “There are a lot of places around the state where there aren’t modified programs anymore.  Even where there are modified programs, the kids don’t get much mat time or many matches to get hooked into the sport.”

Courtesy of NYWAY

“A lot of times, the modified season is only 10 weeks long and some kids only get six meets,” added Finger Lakes Wrestling Club Pee-Wee Coach Eric Toftegaard. “You can’t create good wrestlers when you’re only wrestling that many times, especially when you haven’t been wrestling for very long. We’re trying to bridge the gap.”

That’s the thought process behind the Future Stars, which pits novice wrestlers against others who are in the same boat.

“Wrestlers who are new to the sport often aren’t ready for tournaments,” Toftegaard said. “Who wants to go somewhere and get pinned twice against much more experienced opponents?  This will give newer wrestlers a chance to get accustomed to tournaments with kids across the state in the same position they’re in.  We think this will invigorate their love for the sport and encourage them to continue to their third and fourth years when they’ll be ready for other tournaments.”

The Future Stars event will begin at 8 a.m. and use Madison Style pairing.  The top four will receive custom made medals.

And after they compete, the grapplers will receive free admission to the National Duals.

“It was a really spectacular opportunity to do this event in conjunction with the National Duals,” Toftegaard said. “The kids will get a chance to wrestle and then stay and watch some amazing college athletes and some phenomenal wrestling.  They’ll see what could be if they remain in the sport.”

According to Wattenberg, uniting novice and top notch college wrestling fits perfectly with what NYWAY aims to accomplish.

“We’re trying to provide opportunities for wrestlers at all levels, to grow the sport in New York,” he said. “That includes youth, high school and college.  This event is another way to bring different levels of folkstyle together and have a great day of wrestling.”

For more information, see the flyer here: Future Stars Final-1

The registration deadline is February 15.  To register, see here.

NYWAY Providing $$$ For Out of State Trips: Any New York Team Can Apply

Looking for some assistance for your team to travel to an event outside New York?  NYWAY (New York Wrestling Association for Youth) may be able to help.

G2 World Wrestling Academy co-owner Adam Burgos has been all over the Empire State as well as Ohio and Virginia this spring for various competitions, but although he was interested in attending the Grand River Rumble in Michigan in July, an event that boasted over 45 teams from 10 states a year ago, it didn’t seem viable.

However, Burgos will indeed be heading to the Wolverine State in the summer with an All-Star Empire State squad with the help of NYWAY, which offered to subsidize the trip.

“Because of NYWAY the trip will cost $225,” he said.  “That’s for two nights of hotels, a singlet, t-shirt, shorts and entry into the dual meet and individual tournaments.  NYWAY is making a significant contribution – it would probably cost several hundred dollars more otherwise.”

About to enter its second year, NYWAY said from the start that one of its main objectives was to reinvest funds within the Empire State to enrich wrestling locally.   Part of that process is opening up more opportunities for New York grapplers to see both new competition and new surroundings with trips outside of the state.

“Our goal is to take the money raised through membership and tournament fees and put it back into New York wrestling,” said State President Clint Wattenberg.  “One way we’re doing that is supporting kids that want more experience in the offseason; who want to travel and represent New York and NYWAY in areas they might not be able to go to otherwise.  We’ll be able to make things more affordable and remove some of the barriers for the kids to get this experience.”

To that end, NYWAY has set up a form on its website (nyway.org) where any club team can apply for up to $500 in funds to take a team trip.  Wattenberg’s desire is for every applicant to receive some assistance from the organization.

“I hope that any club that is trying to arrange a trip goes to nyway.org and applies,” Wattenberg said.  “The form is very short, and we have a committee of board members that will be taking a look at all the applications. We’re trying to give every team that applies some funding and if a team is taking several trips and there are funds left over, we’ll definitely take a look at that as well.”

Michael Laporte and his son Matthew were beneficiaries last fall when Laporte led a team of New Yorkers on a subsidized journey to Northern California for a dual meet event and an individual tournament.

“The excitement the kids felt about getting on that plane and going to California was amazing,” Laporte said. “Getting to wrestle seven or eight matches on top of that just made it even better.”

Then-11-year old AJ Burkhart was a member of that team as well.

“It was an overwhelming and incredible experience for AJ that we are so glad to have been a part of,” his mother Dana Harbst-Burkhart said. “Wrestling that caliber of competition was incredible.”

Burkhart will be part of the team Burgos will be coaching at the Grand River Rumble, a squad that represents at least six different clubs and several areas around the state.   He believes the benefits on the mat will be significant, as they were for the California trip.

“From a wrestling perspective, traveling to events like these gets rid of the big fish, small pond atmosphere,” Burgos said.  “You can have a ton of success locally, but at national events, you see talent you wouldn’t normally see and you can better see how you’re developing and what you need to do to reach your individual goals.  At the youth level, I think it’s more about experience than wins and losses but getting those experiences against the best competition is imperative.”

But both Harbst-Burkhart and Burgos emphasized that these trips have advantages that go well beyond the wrestling mat.

“The friendships that AJ made on the trip to California are what it’s really all about,” Harbst-Burkhart said.  “Even though it was a New York team, he didn’t know a lot of the kids before.  After the wrestling was over, we were able to see some of California and it was pretty awesome.  We saw Alcatraz.  We have a picture with the whole team in NYWAY singlets with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. AJ still talks about the trip and he will for years to come.”

Burgos agreed.

“There’s a camaraderie built with the kids and the families,” Burgos said.  “And you see new places and have a vacation that builds memories you take with you for a lifetime.  That’s so much of the value of these trips.”

While the team going to the Grand River Rumble is comprised of many of the top placers at the NYWAY State championships in March, Wattenberg emphasized that the opportunities for travel will not be limited to only the most successful grapplers.

“We will be sending some of our top level kids to national competitions,” he said.  “For example, we will have a team going out to California like we did last year.  But we are looking to get our not-yet-elite wrestlers out of state experience in places like New Jersey, Michigan and Ohio and we might do some exchange programs with Canada in some of the Olympic styles.  We are also working on our novice division as we want there to be chances for kids across the spectrum to compete in ways that will challenge them appropriately.”

Those who have been through these travel experiences before believe others should take advantage.

“It’s great to get kids more involved and provide opportunities that they might not otherwise have,” Harbst-Burkhart said.  “We feel privileged to have been a part of it and I hope NYWAY can continue to provide these opportunities so that many other kids can benefit the way we have.”

To view the Travel Team Application form, please visit: http://www.nyway.org/nyway-travel-team-funding-application/

Please contact Clint Wattenberg at clintwattenberg@nyway.org with any questions.

Listen to Clint Wattenberg talk about NYWAY’s funding for clubs

 

–Betsy Veysman

More Interviews from Cornell Regional Training Center Clinic: Nick Arujau and Clint Wattenberg

At the Cornell Regional Training Center clinic on Memorial Day weekend, Nick Arujau talks about his first year with the Big Red and his thoughts about going 125 or 133 next season.  Clint Wattenberg discusses the growth of the Cornell Regional Training Center and the new freestyle coaching coming on board.

Nick Arujau

 

Clint Wattenberg