Stevo Poulin and AJ Burkhart Claim Titles; Team NYWAY Competes at the Grand River Rumble in Michigan

A water park, two days of wrestling and some hardware to bring back home to New York.

That’s what Team NYWAY experienced last weekend, as the group traveled to Michigan for the Grand River Rumble, a two-day event featuring an individual tournament on Saturday and a Duals competition on Sunday.

In two days, the grapplers each competed in about 10 bouts in the Elementary School Division and in the end, five New Yorkers placed in the top four individually (including championships for Stevo Poulin and AJ Burkhart) while the squad took ninth during the Duals.

Poulin was undefeated throughout the weekend, going a combined 10-0 over the two days.  During the individual event, he outscored his opponents 26-2 and added a pin on the way to his crown.  He tacked on three more falls, a technical fall and a major decision while representing Team NYWAY during the Duals.

“Stevo was very focused, like he normally is,” said Steve Poulin, his father and one of the coaches, along with Adam Burgos of G2 World Wrestling Academy. “There were a few kids he was excited to wrestle, like Lain Yapoujian from Colorado who took second at Reno Worlds this year.  [Poulin won 7-0 in the individual tournament and 9-3 in the Duals against Yapoujian]. Stevo was pretty dominant.”

Also dominant was fellow champion Burkhart, who compiled a 9-1 mark overall, with four pins (three in less than a minute) as well as three major decisions.  But it was one of his close matches that was among the most memorable moments of the weekend, according to Steve Poulin.

“AJ had an awesome match with PJ Crane of Cincinnati Grapplers [a 2-0 victory for Burkhart],” Poulin said. “He had never beaten him before and beat him at the Duals.  Everyone was freaking out; it was awesome.  It was worth the trip out there just to have AJ beat him for the first time.”

Three additional team members medalled, including Tyler Barnes, who was the runner up at 110 pounds.  The Journeymen wrestler won eight of his 10 bouts, including a pair of pins.

“Tyler wrestled really well all weekend,” Poulin said.

Also making the podium for New York were Dillan Palaszewski and Colin Bradshaw.  Palaszewski dropped his opening bout in the 85-pound bracket, but responded with three victories to take third.  On Sunday, he added another four wins for Team NYWAY, including three falls.

Bradshaw also began with a loss, in the 50-pound tournament, but bounced back in the consolations to finish fourth.  During the Duals, he won three matches, all by fall.

The individual placers weren’t the only ones who contributed to the squad’s performance.

In the Duals competition, Nicholas Noel won four of his six bouts at 95 pounds, including a pin in less than a minute over Nathan Conley of Indiana Gold.  Also getting their hand raised for Team NYWAY were Andy Lucinski (60), Justin Smith (65), Ryan Burgos (70), Christian Bradshaw (75) and Camerin Galvin (105).  Wyatt Smith stepped in at 80 pounds for the Empire State, while Jake Cook took the mat at 135 on Saturday but injury defaulted his last match and did not compete during the Duals.

“It was a great event,” Poulin said. “We had a fun time as a team. For some of the kids, it was the first time they experienced something like this, so it was eye opening.  These types of events help kids realize what they need to do to take things to the next level.”

But it wasn’t all about wrestling.

“There was a water park right there and all the kids went on Saturday after the tournament,” Poulin said. “Then on Sunday, the Dual meet was actually at the park.  The wrestling was great but I’m guessing the park was probably the favorite part of the trip for the kids.”

Individual Placers

50 Pounds: Colin Bradshaw, 4th

55 Pounds: Stevo Poulin, Champion

85 Pounds: Dillan Palaszewski, 3rd

90 Pounds: AJ Burkhart, Champion

110 Pounds: Tyler Barns, 2nd

Team Dual Meet Results

Round 1: Chi City MonStarz defeated Team NYWAY 38-16

Round 2: Flat River Black defeated Team NYWAY 30-28

Round 3: Cincinnati Grapplers defeated Team NYWAY 63-6

Round 4: Indiana Gold defeated Team NYWAY 37-22

Round 5: Team NYWAY defeated Junior Titans 48-18

Round 6: Team NYWAY defeated Contenders Wrestling Academy 33-30

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