A Champion and a Worthy Cause: VHW Teams Up With Watertown Wrestling to Help Keep the Program Alive

In 2008, Watertown wrestling celebrated a New York State champion as Luke Bohn brought home the gold at 135 pounds for the Section 3 school.

Just two years later, however, the program was removed from the budget.  But head coach Chris Adams and the wrestling community weren’t ready to let go.

“The school cut wrestling and field hockey at the same time,” Adams said. “They said it was about the numbers, but we had decent numbers. It was outrageous.  The field hockey team disbanded, but we weren’t going to do that.”

So, it was fundraising time.  According to Adams, the squad has to come up with around $6,000 each year to cover all costs, including entry fees to events and transportation.  (Adams said the coaching staff works as volunteers for the school team and at a local club).

“It gets harder and harder every year because we’re asking the same people to help; doing the same fundraisers,” Adams said.

A new opportunity emerged earlier this spring, however.  When Adams was in Indianapolis coaching the New York team at the Schoolboy Nationals, he told Watertown’s story to World champion and Olympic medalist Vougar Oroudjov, who was there with his son Vito, a New York State runner up at 99 pounds as an eighth grader.

“I heard about their problems with the budget and said I would come and do a clinic for free to try to help,” Oroudjov said. “It’s important to keep wrestling teams going so we promised to help out.”

Oroudjov brought five of the wrestlers from his Long Island club, Vougar’s Honors Wrestling (VHW), up to Watertown and back last Friday, to ensure they’d be back in time for Saturday’s Summer Heat event at Hofstra.

“It was amazing for him to drive six hours there on Friday, do the clinic and then drive six hours back that night,” Adams said. “It was a huge favor for us and he was great. Local kids weren’t used to that style of wrestling and it was a huge hit with the wrestlers who were there. It was great that the kids got to learn a lot and meet someone like Vougar. The clinic made a bit of a dent financially.”

Adams said that the money raised will help some wrestlers enter local tournaments, but there is still plenty of work to do.

“Our chicken barbecue is usually our big fundraiser,” Adams said. “We had it in June and it was highly successful.  Sometimes important causes come up. We have a modified wrestler who suffered a concussion in December and wasn’t able to go back to school the rest of the year.  He needs to travel back and forth to doctors a lot and we donated funds for him and his family.”

The campaign continues on for Adams and Watertown wrestling.

“We’ll have our pee wee tournament and we’ll do some other things like sell discount cards,” he said. “I love the sport and I went to Watertown High School.  We have more Section 3 champions than anyone.  Around here, that’s huge. We also have more state champions than anyone in our league. We have a very rich tradition.”

A rich tradition and a promising future, according to the coach, as there are over 100 kids in the pee wee program.

“Those wrestlers will come up to the varsity level down the road,” he said. “We want to make sure they have a program to wrestle for.  It’s difficult, but as long as the kids keep coming, I’ll keep coaching.”


Vougar Oroudjov Reflects on his World Cup Experience with Team USA

A little over a week ago, Vougar Oroudjov returned from Baku, Azerbaijan where he was on the staff of the United States team that finished third at the FILA World Cup.   The two-time World Champion and Olympic bronze medalist talked to New York Wrestling News about his experience with the USA squad.

What was your role with the team?

Zeke Jones called me about two weeks before the tournament and asked if I could come.  I was a Team Leader.  I was born in Azerbaijan and speak the language there so I translated when we needed it, dealt with hotels, referees and things like that.  I was also at practice and the matches.  I did what I could to help the guys. It was great to be a part of it with everyone on the team and the great coaches – Zeke Jones, John Smith, Mark Manning and Brandon Slay.  It was my first time with the US Team and I didn’t feel like an outsider at all.  We all wanted the same thing – to win.  The atmosphere was great.

What did you think about the team’s performance?

The team was very good.  The United States keeps making big improvements in freestyle.  You saw it at the World Championships and again at the World Cup.

We lost to Iran 4-3, but I wouldn’t say they were much better. Maybe a few tactical things made the difference. In the first match, at 55 kg with Nick Simmons, there were a couple of situations where there were calls that could go either way and they went Iran’s way.  Same thing with [Keith] Gavin’s match at 84 kg.   It was a good learning experience.  I think everyone understands that we have some work to do to be the best team in the world, but we’re getting closer.  There is time before the Olympics to focus on our mistakes and fix them.

Who impressed you individually for the United States?

Jordan Burroughs, Coleman Scott and Tervel Dlagnev were all undefeated and wrestled really well.

Burroughs showed why he is the World Champion.  He knew exactly what he needed to do against the competition.  Dlagnev has the experience on this level and it showed.

It was the first time I saw Coleman Scott wrestle and I was amazed. He was really tough and mentally ready. He wasn’t intimidated about wrestling for the national team, he just went out to win. He never stopped moving; was all the time attacking.  I really like his style – he always showed offensive wrestling.  He beat some very good wrestlers.  I thought 60 kg was one of the toughest weights overall at the tournament. If I were the coach, I’d want him on the Olympic team.  Of course, I’m not the coach.

Honestly, there weren’t any guys who didn’t compete well.  Take someone like Jake Varner.  He lost some matches, but he still wrestled pretty well.  He lost to some World finalists.  I still think he’s good enough to do very well in London. The  Olympics are different than the World Cup. I have several friends who never won anything until they put it together and won the Olympics.

What do you think of the freestyle wrestling you saw at the tournament?

The rules just keep changing.  I know I learned a lot because things are different than when I wrestled freestyle.  To me, it’s getting so much more tactical.  In folkstyle, it’s all about intensity; guys going all out the whole match.  In freestyle now, it isn’t like that.  A lot of it is getting one pushout or taking one shot or grabbing the right ball out of a bag.  I don’t like that.  Just go to overtime and see who scores to get the real winner. There also seems to be a lot more questionable calls.  But we all know the rules.  There are no excuses.  We need to train for those rules and those types of matches.

You had a New York wrestler on the team in Cornell’s Kyle Dake.  He didn’t compete in the dual competition, but how did he look in training?

Kyle was there to be the training partner for Jordan Burroughs and to possibly give Burroughs a rest if we could during the tournament.  That didn’t wind up happening.

But even though he wasn’t in the tournament, I saw Kyle wrestle a lot. Each practice, I was in his corner, watching him.  He’s really good and getting better and better in freestyle. The best thing is that he listens.  You say something to him and he appreciates it and makes the changes.  He was impressive. People would be surprised how good he looked and how he looks against Burroughs.

We also had matches before the tournament where he was wrestling the guys from places like Azerbaijan and Russia.  He did very well against them.  I definitely think Kyle will make the next Olympics.  He’s really progressing in freestyle.  He will be a big surprise for everybody in the next Olympic cycle.

What’s next for you?

I will be working with the kids in my club [Vougars Honors Wrestling in Syosset] on freestyle to prepare for Fargo.

Then, we’ll see.  The USA coaches invited me to come with the team to the Olympics.  It was really hard for me to leave my family for the two weeks for the World Cup, so it would be hard to go for a longer time to London.  I missed home.  I missed my wrestlers and my club.  My son Vitali won the NY Freestyle States while I was away.    That’s one of the reasons the decision to go to Baku was so hard – I knew I would have to miss that and the other New York States for Cadets and Juniors.  I’m probably 50/50 right now on going to London.  I am honored that I was asked and it would be an honor to be there and help and give back to America.

Either way, I wish everyone luck.  I’m hoping for some Olympic championships.  We definitely have several guys who have shown that they are good enough to do it.

New York Wrestlers Earn Titles at the War at the Shore

Close to 1800 wrestlers traveled to Wildwood, New Jersey this holiday weekend for the 9th Annual War at the Shore Folkstyle Nationals.  Some of New York’s finest were among the grapplers in attendance, battling with opponents from up and down the East Coast and around the country.

Six Empire State participants won individual titles on Saturday with more than 30 placing fourth or better in their weights.

Darien resident Dane Heberlein continued his winning ways after earning a national title at the NHSCA Middle School tournament in Virginia Beach the previous Saturday (and a NYWAY State Championship the weekend before). Heberlein cruised to five straight wins, including a 4-2 decision in the finals over Trevor Tarsi of Nazareth, PA at 85 pounds in Division 4.

A pair of representatives from 631 Elite stood on top of the podium in Division 3, as Adam Busiello took the 77-pound crown and Peter Pappas prevailed in the 82-pound class.  Busiello outscored his opponents 49-7 over his five bouts while Pappas opened with three commanding victories before coming out on top in one-point matches in the semis and finals. 631 Elite had a strong tournament overall, with eight competitors finishing in the top four at the event.

Another Suffolk resident atop the podium was Sachem East’s Jakob Restrepo, who was the victor at 140 pounds in Division 4.  Restrepo, who was 28-1 during the high school season at 120 and 126 pounds according to the NWCA Scorebook, yielded just two points in his five matches while notching a pin and a major decision.  He defeated Delaware’s Lucas Monson 5-0 for the championship.

Benny Baker of Newark Valley took the title at 83 pounds while representing JGold.  The NYWAY State Champion made quick work of his first two foes, winning by fall in less than two minutes in both bouts.  He then followed with a 4-1 semifinal triumph and a 4-0 victory over 631 Elite’s Ryan Burgbacher in the finale.

The final New York champion was Kevin Mulligan of the Olympic Club, who took his first three bouts by a combined score of 20-0 at 165 pounds before topping Will Lang of Utah 7-2 to earn the title.

For a list of top four medalists from New York*, see below:



Benny Baker (JGold) – 83 Pounds, Division 2

Adam Busiello (631 Elite) – 77 Pounds, Division 3

Dane Heberlein (Viper Garage Elite) – 85 Pounds, Division 4

Kevin Mulligan (Olympic) – 165 Pounds, Division 4

Peter Pappas (631 Elite) – 82 Pounds, Division 3

Jakob Restrepo (Sachem East) – 140 Pounds, Division 4


Second Place

David Berkovich (Elite Wrestling Academy) – 78 Pounds, Division 2

Ryan Burgbacher (631 Elite) – 83 Pounds, Division 2

Nicholas Casella (Covert) – 102 Pounds, Division 4

Billy Ciccarelli (West Point WC) – 125 Pounds, Division 3

Justin Corradino (Olympic) – 127 Pounds, Division 5

Thomas Cox (631 Elite) – 75 Pounds, Division 4

Joey Gates (Suffolk) – 137 Pounds, Division 5

Josh Logiudice (Guilderland) – 95 Pounds, Division 5

Cody Phillips (Cobra) – 90 Pounds, Division 1

Jose Rodriguez (Ascend) – 107 Pounds, Division 5

Dylan Rider (631 Elite) – 67 Pounds, Division 3


Third Place

CJ Archer (Rocky Point Elite) – 90 Pounds, Division 4

Timothy Castillo (Port Wrestling) – 140 Pounds, Division 3

Jesse Dellavecchia (East Islip) – 96 Pounds, Division 4

Tyler Joseph (Olympic) – 70 Pounds, Division 1

Jake Murphy (Wantagh) – 56 Pounds, Division 1

Nicholas Pagnotta (Rocky Point Elite) – 80 Pounds, Division 4

Sean Romanski (NY Titan) – 137 Pounds, Division 5

Jake Silverstein (631 Elite) – 82 Pounds, Division 3

Sam Ward (VHW) – 128 pounds, Division 4


Fourth Place

Vitali Arujau (VHW) – 99 Pounds, Division 3

Nick Bernardo (VHW) – 200 Pounds, Division 3

AJ Burkhart (IWC) – 82 Pounds, Division 3

Christian Gannone (631 Elite) – 62 Pounds, Division 3

Ethan Mackie (Lindenhurst), 75 Pounds, Division 1

Sean Miller (Connetquot) – 90 Pounds, Division 4

Mathew Seitz (Apex) – 102 Pounds, Division 4

Gino Titone (Connetquot) – 140 Pounds, Division 4

Jordon Wellington (631 Elite) – 58 Pounds, Division 2

Dale White (John Jay) – 162 Pounds, Division 5


*Some results were not complete. If you notice a missing top four placewinner, please contact us.