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.”


Homecoming!: Nassau Wrestler of the Year Choi Receives Awards and a Special Gift from VHW

Being intimidated was new.  Vougar Oroudjov said he didn’t remember feeling that way – even when competing on the biggest stages, such as the Olympics and the World Championships.

But earlier this week, at the Section 8 Dinner, Oroudjov, the head of Vougar’s Honors Wrestling (VHW), met his match.

Choi, Photo by BV

“I was never scared like that before,” he said. “I went up to give a speech and I couldn’t say anything.  All those people were looking at me. It was very different.  But I had to give the speech.  It was very important to me to give this award to [Syosset senior] Dan Choi.”

It wasn’t the only trophy of the evening for Choi, the 2013 195-pound New York State champion in Division I, who also collected several other accolades, including Nassau’s Most Outstanding Wrestler (Newsday and Friends of Long Island Wrestling), Navy ROTC Award, Matanna Family Scholarship and an NYSPHSAA All-Academic honor.

But the award Oroudjov spoke about was perhaps more valuable.  Because what VHW gave Choi was a chance to finally go home.

“When I found out that Dan didn’t go to Korea to see his mother for two years, I felt terrible,” Oroudjov said. “With my Olympic dream, I traveled a lot – camps and tournaments.  It was non-stop traveling.  I always missed my family and friends. I know that feeling.  So, we bought Dan a round trip ticket to go back to Korea to see his family for the first time in years before he goes to college at Cornell University.”

We detailed Choi’s amazing story of coming to the United States just three years ago without his parents and earning an ROTC scholarship to the Ivy League institution in Ithaca in this article.

However, that story was published before Choi’s tremendous run through the field at the Times Union Center to earn a state championship.  But those victories in Albany aren’t what stand out most for Oroudjov.  The title wasn’t the reason that he and Nebraska recruit Anthony Abidin held a clinic to raise some of the funds for Choi’s journey to Asia.

“He is just unbelievable,” Oroudjov said. “How many high school kids could do everything he has done without seeing their parents for two years?  He works a job, he does great in school, he wrestles. We’ll go to tournaments and he always has such a heavy bag because he’s doing his calculus and other homework at the tournaments.  He also has a lot of fun – we dance Gangnum style together after big wins. We’re going to miss him. He’s a great person to have around. He deserves all his awards but we needed to give him the award of going home.”


Choi wasn’t the only wrestler to come away from the event with hardware.  State champions Kyle Quinn (Wantagh) and Louis Hernandez (Mepham) were also named to Newsday’s All-Long Island team, as was runner up Chris Koo of Great Neck South.  Joining them on the squad were Suffolk grapplers Matt Leshinger (Sayville), TJ Fabian (Shoreham Wading River), Corey Rasheed (Longwood), Tyler Grimaldi (Hills West), Carlos Toribio (Brentwood), Michael Hughes (Smithtown West), Alex Tanzman (Westhampton Beach) and Nick Piccininni (Ward Melville). Piccininni was named Wrestler of the Year for the State of New York by WIN Magazine.