Saturday, January 31, 2015

USM's NCAA Scholar All American, CJ Luth

USM's NCAA Scholar All American, CJ Luth had an outstanding weekend as he finished with a 3-0 record at the NCAA New England Wrestling Duals! He went unscored upon in his 3 victories, out scoring his opponents 26-0 and earned NCAA Division III New England All Star accolades on Sunday at the Duals! The most dominant wrestler from each NCAA New England team earned this recognition and Luth's accomplishments that day solidified him as the most dominant.

He, along with his teammate, friend and workout partner, Daniel Del Gallo, both won their 48th career victory on Sunday and are looking to win their 50th in coming days!

Most impressively, Luth holds a 3.87 GPA at the University of Southern Maine!

USM's Daniel Del Gallo

USM's Daniel Del Gallo vs TylerTilbe from WPI; Daniel earned an outstanding and convincing decision against a tough and accomplished Tilbe during the 1st round of the NCAA New England Wrestling Dual Meet Championships hosted by Springfield College.

Del Gallo is currently ranked #3 in the NCAA New England rankings, has a season record of 25-2 and is a favorite to make this years NCAA National Tournament.

MOST impressively- Del Gallo, a 2014 NCAA Scholar All American, holds a perfect 4.0 GPA at the University of Southern Maine!

USM NCAA Scholar All Americans

USM sophomore NCAA Scholar All Americans CJ Luth and Daniel Del Gallo earned their 50th career college victories leading the USM Huskies to their 5th consecutive winning season.

The Huskies earned a convincing 40-9 win over Plymouth State University however dropped a close 27-18 match to the United States Coast Guard Academy.

USM's record stands at 13-9 with 3 dual meets left on their schedule which concludes next weekend in Connecticut

John W Cole
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USM Finishes 10th at NEWA Duals

Sean Fagan

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Four University of Southern Maine wrestlers posted perfect 3-0 marks to highlight the Huskies at the 2015 New England Wrestling Association (NEWA) "Headlock for Hunger" Dual Championship Sunday afternoon at Springfield College.

The Huskies finished 10th out of 15 teams posting a 1-2 mark. Southern Maine is now 13-8 in dual meet action. Southern Maine fell to WPI 26-18 and then defeated Plymouth State 29-15. In their final match of the day, the Huskies dropped a 33-20 decision to Norwich.

Sophomores Daniel Del Gallo (Gardiner, Maine) and Carl Luth (Milford, Conn./Foran) and seniors Sean Fagan (Arlington, Mass.) and Jonathan Deupree(Ozona, Fla./Countryside) each grappled their way to a 3-0 mark.

Wrestling at 149, Del Gallo defeated WPI's Tyler Tilbe by decision 9-3 and then rolled to a 19-8 major decision over Plymouth State's Alex Gerhold. Del Gallo then worked his way to a fall over Richard Garzo.

Competing at 157, Luth started his day with a 6-0 decision over WPI's Torin Zonfrelli and then earned a 10-0 major decision against PSU's Nick Simeti. In his final match of the day, Luth defeated Dante Jones 10-0 of Norwich.

Deupree had two wins by decision and a win by major decision at 184 pounds. Deupree opened with a 13-11 decision over WPI's Lucas Muntz. In his secon win, Deupreee defeated PSU's Chris Perreault in a narrow 3-2 decision in a battle of ranked opponents. In his final match, Deupree downed Norwich's Bryan Giblin 14-6

Fagan, wrestling at 197, had a dominant day on the mat, posting two wins by fall and a win by technical fall. Fagan pinned WPI's Joe Pizzuto in 2:25, before downing Trevor Wassel of PSU in 2:58. In his final match, Fagan rumbled his way to a 20-5 win by technical fall over Norwich's Jacob Towse.

Southern Maine returns to action on Saturday (12:00 p.m.) at a quad meet at WPI with Oneonta State and Plymouth State.

2015 New England Wrestling Association (NEWA) "Headlock for Hunger" Dual Championship Final Team Standings

1. Roger Williams 2. Johnson & Wales 3. Coast Guard 4. Springfield 5. Williams 6. Rhode Island College 7. Wesleyan 8. WPI 9. Norwich 10. Southern Maine 11. Plymouth State 12. Western New England 13. Bridgewater State 14. Daniel Webster 15. Trinity.

Southern Maine Results:

WPI 26, Southern Maine 18

125: Brian Amato (WPI) wins by forfeit (6-0)
133: Stephen Jendritz (WPI) def. Lucas Dion (USM) (Fall 3:00) (12-0)
141: Jack Nigro (WPI) def. Brandon Curtis U(USM) - (Dec., 13-7) (15-0)
149: Daniel Del Gallo (USM) def. Tyler Tilbe (WPI) - (Dec., 9-3) (15-3)
157: Carl Luth (USM) def. Torin Zonfrelli (WPI) - (Dec., 6-0) (15-6)
165: Andy Tanner (WPI) def. Matthew Wheeler (USM) - (Fall 1:47) (21-6)
174: Justin Marsh (WPI) def. Aaron Weiss (SM) - (TF) (26-6)
184: Jonathan Deupree (USM) def. Lucas Muntz (WPI) - (Dec., 13-11) (26-9)
197: Sean Fagan (USM) def. Joe Pizzuto (WPI) - (Fall 2:25) (26-15)
285: Michael Frey (USM) def. Logan Mendelson (WPI) - (Dec., 8-4) (26-18)

Southern Maine 29, Plymouth State 15
125: Lucas Dion (USM) def. Alex Otis (PSU) (Fall, 2:53) (6-0)
133: Mike Allen wins by forfeit (6-6)
141: Brandon Curtis (USM) def. Tristan Leek (PSU) (Dec., 11-6) (9-6)
149: Daniel Del Gallo (USM) def. Alex Gerhold (PSU) (Major Dec., 19-8) (13-6)
157: Carl Luth (USM) def. Nick Simeti (PSU) (Major Dec., 10-0) (17-6)
165: Clay Callahan (PSU) def. Matthew Wheeler (USM) (Fall, 1:26) (17-12)
174: Justin Montgomery (PSU) def.Aaron Weiss (USM) (Dec., 6-4) (17-15)
184: Jonathan Deupree (USM) def. Chris Perreault (PSU) (Dec., 3-2) (20-15)
197: Sean Fagan (USM) def. Trevor Wassel (PSU) (Fall, 2:58) (26-15)
285: Thomas Arseneault (USM) def. Kevin Ell (PSU) (Dec., 6-3) (29-15)

Norwich 33, Southern Maine 20
125: Chase Jefferys (NOR) wins by forfeit - (6-0)
133: Alex Stewart (NOR) wins by forfeit - (12-0)
141: James Duncan (NOR) def. Brandon Curtis (USM) - (Fall 4:18) (18-0)
149: Daniel Del Gallo (USM) def. Richard Garzon (NOR) - (Fall) (18-6)
157: Carl Luth (USM) def. Dante Jones (NOR) - (Major Dec. 10-0) (18-11)
165: Zack Gibson (NOR) def. Matthew Wheeler (USM) - (Fall 1:10) (24-11)
174: William Burns (NOR) def. Aaron Pierce (USM) - (Fall :36) (30-11)
184: John Deupree (USM) def. Bryan Giblin (NOR) - (Major Dec., 14-6) (30-15)
197: Sean Fagan (USM) def. Jacob Towse (NOR) - (Tech Fall., 20-5) (30-20)
285: Steve Maldonado (NOR) def. Michael Frey (USM) (Dec., 4-3) (33-20)

Friday, January 30, 2015

Conference championship canceled, grapplers now prepare for regionals, states

Season recaps for Camden Hills, Belfast, Oceanside, Mount View, Medomak Valley

By Staff |

AUGUSTA — With the regular season wrapped for high school wrestling squads, Midcoast mat athletes eagerly anticipate the postseason, which was to begin on Saturday, Jan. 31 with the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships at Cony High School in Augusta.

However, that meet was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., but with more inclement weather to hit the state over the weekend, the start time was pushed back an hour to 11 a.m., but now the event has been canceled, announced Jim Leonard, athletic director at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield.

Camden Hills of Rockport, Belfast, Oceanside of Rockland/Thomaston, Mount View of Thorndike and Medomak Valley of Waldoboro compete in the KVACs.

Usually, the KVAC meet features Class A and Class B schools within the separate classes each wrestling one another in a combined meet, though, at the end, both Class A and Class B champions are crowned.

Last year, Camden Hills finished first in Class B (second overall), while Belfast finished second (fourth overall).

Now the Windjammers, Mariners, Lions, Panthers and Mustangs will gear up for the regional meets on Saturday, Feb. 7 in Eastern Class B at Medomak Valley for Belfast, Oceanside, Camen Hills and Medomak Valley and Western Class B at Wells for Mount View and the state Class B meet on Saturday, Feb. 14 at Fryeburg Academy for all the Midcoast teams.

This winter, Camden Hills, also the defending regional and state Class B champs, sported a 20-8 regular-season, dual-meet record. Belfast held a 23-4-2 record, Oceanside 16-11, Medomak Valley 9-13 and Mount View 9-17.

The following is a breakdown of each area team's wrestlers, weight classes and win/loss records to date:

Camden Hills — Hilary Merrifield, 113-pound class (24-6); Zac Annis, 120-pound class (12-1); Kaden Harrison-Billiat, 126-pound class (9-5); Gabe Wright, 132-pound class (11-8); John Underhill, 138-pound class (22-4); Taylor Crosby, 145-pound class (16-5); Alex Vokey, 152-pound class (5-9); Eli Smith, 160-pound class (10-2); Eben Merrifield, 170-pound class (13-9); Adrian Joy, 170-pound class (12-8); Wyatt, Parra, 182-pound class (10-10); Kaylo Littlejohn, 195-pound class (20-5); Jared Gilbert, 220-pound class (22-2); and Bryan Clement, 285-pound class, 17-7.

Belfast — Brendan Bruns, 106-pound weight class (29-3); Austin Merando, 113-pound class (31-10); Chase Curry, 120-pound class (33-11); Tyler Stickney, 126-pound class (8-6); Dakota Coleman, 132-pound class (15-21); Brandon Waterman, 138-pound class (34-10); Jacob Racioppi, 145-pound class (34-9); Jesse Bishop, 152-pound class (1-2); Jacob Waterman, 160-pound class (9-4); Matt Smith, 170-pound class (15-13); Austin Sprague, 182-pound class (22-13); Jared Vaughn, 195-pound class (7-11); Travis Tran, 220-pound class (10-4); and Jared Hansen, 285-pound class (28-7).

Medomak Valley — Rayanne Leach, 120-pound class (10-16, 4 pins); 126 pounds, Deagen Poland, 126-pound class (15-9, 7 pins); Steven Thompson, 132-pound class (27-5, 19 pins); Tim Jerome, 138-pound class (13-11, 6 pins); Riley McCollett, 145-pound class (19-5, 14 pins); Quinn Ashmore, 152-pound class (20-12, 13 pins); Andrew Cronk, 160-pound class (14-20, 7 pins); and Noah Munn, 285-pound class (2-10, pin).

Mount View — Chris Barnard, 113-pound class (10-11); Jon Lawrence, 126-pound class (14-6); Jason Barnard, 132-pound class (12-10); Anthony Barnard, 145-pound class (28-10); Sierra Fonger, 160-pound class (9-21); Jack Axsom, 182-pound class (8-21); Job Mesaric, 220-pound class (25-5); and Chris Cole, 285-pound class (12-1).

Oceanside — Jayred Robishaw, 120-pound class (15-3); Shannon Ripley, 126-pound class (24-2); Alex Robbins, 132-pound class (1-9); Anthony Moore, 138-pound class (14-13); David Young, 145-pound class (9-6); Dallas Ball, 152-pound class (28-6); Damian Benner, 160-pound class (6-6), Nick Keene, 170-pound class (9-8), Alex McLaughlin, 182-pound class (22-10); Reagan Billingsley, 195-pound class (9-14), Alex Rackliffe, 220-pound class (14-19) and Thomas Curtis, 285-pound class (18-15).

Marshwood’s 2015 New England Youth Wrestling Invitational Classic

Coaches Must Read

1. The registration will close when the tournament is full. Please return completed registration along with check ASAP. Every year we are full so there will be some teams who receive an invitation but will not be able to enter their team. You may reserve your spot by sending in a check for the number of wrestlers who will be attending at any time prior to roster information deadline.

2. MARCH 19th IS THE ROSTER INFORMATION DEADLINE. This means that we must receive wrestler information BY this DATE or roster spots will be forfeited. Typically all spots are filled well before this date, so you won’t want to wait.

3. Coaches are required to have a USA coaches card or pay the admission price. 

4. We have also decided to have the schoolboy division use weight classes as follows: 70,75,80,85,90,95,100,105,110,115,120,125,130,

135,140,150,160,170,185,200,220,285. With awards for the top 6 in this division. There will be NO Grand champion matches this year.

Cumberland County Civic Center
Portland, ME
Saturday April 4th, 2015

This is an invitational tournament; you must have an invitation to Register. This is a double elimination, folkstyle tournament. As in previous years, there will be four divisions for elementary and junior high wrestlers-Bantam (Grades k through 2), Midget (Grades 3 & 4), Novice (Grades 5 & 6), and Schoolboy (Grades 7 & 8). Weight Classes will be determined after weigh-in.

Bantam, Midget, Novice divisions will compete in 8-person brackets when possible with awards given to the top 4 places. Schoolboy division will compete in 16 man brackets with the top 6 awards given. Team Scores will be kept and awards given for the first place and runner-up teams on each division. The brackets of 5 or less will be run as round robin.

Teams will be limited to 25 wrestlers. Each team may designate up to 12 wrestlers Per Division as “scoring wrestlers” for the purpose of earning Team Points. All additional wrestlers will be considered “non-scoring”. Non-scoring wrestlers will not earn Team Points, but will be eligible for all individual awards. No ALL STAR Teams or CLUB Teams.

Bantam and Midget Divisions will wrestle on Saturday, starting at 8:30 am. All matches will be 3 one minute rounds (1-1-1).

Novice and Schoolboy Divisions will wrestle on Saturday afternoon at 11:00. All matches will be 3 one minute rounds (1-1-1), except for the championship and consolation finals, which will be (1-2-2). Time permitting.

Registration is $30 per person and is non-refundable. Make checks payable to “E.S.B.W.” This tournament is limited to 400 wrestlers in the Bantam and Midget Divisions and 600 wrestlers in the Novice and Schoolboy Divisions and, based on the last ten years, it WILL be full. Registration is first-come first-served based on receipt of the Completed Team Registration Form and Registration Fees. 

You can ensure your spots ahead of time by sending in the registration fees and number of wrestlers desired in each Division early. Final Rosters must still be provided by March 19th or spots with no wrestler information will be forfeited. No spots will be held without prior payment. No refunds will be made for Forfeited spots. There will be NO Additions after March 19th. There will be No Tournament Day Additions. No-Shows are already taken into account, there for No replacements are accepted after March 19th. 

Guaranteed entry to first 1,000 entries (correctly filled out and with payment). Additional open entries will be at discretion of tournament committee. 

All wrestlers must weigh-in in wrestling uniform (singlet or shirt/shorts) and submit to a skin check at weigh-in. A doctor’s note for any current skin conditions must be provided; however, tournament staff will have the finale decision regarding skin checks.

This is a qualifier for the 2014-2015 TOC as well as the 2015 Fall TOC. The top three finishers in each weight class will qualify. For more information about the Ohio Tournament you can call Bart Freidenberg at (216)236-1011.

Coaches Passes

In an effort to keep the mats clear and the tournament moving we WILL limit the number of people on the floor. Only people with coach’s passes will be allowed on the mats. Understanding that in special Circum stances parents may need to be at the mats with young wrestlers they will have to borrow a pass form one of their team coaches. We will send passes to each team by mail or give them out at registration. If you need additional passes it will be at the discretion of the tournament committee. Please contact Pete Eastman with any questions.

Others may also reference this web site for Hotels, Directions and other details. To reach Tournament Director by email at

Weigh-In Times

Mandatory Friday Weigh-Ins for Pre-K – 8th 
Friday, April 3rd 
Bantam – Schoolboy Marshwood Great Works School 5-7:30 pm
Grades (Pre-K – 8) Best Western Merry Manor Inn 5:00-8:00 pm
Wrestlers may only weigh in ONCE


Directions to the Best Western Merry Manor Inn

From the North & South using the Main Turnpike

Take the Main Turnpike North or South to Exit 45. Take Exit 45 and go straight past the old tollbooth for 1.5 miles. You will come to a stop light on US Route #1. Go through the stop light into the parking lot of the Best Western Merry Manor Inn. The registration desk is located through the entrance under the carport.

From the North Using Route 295

Follow Route 295 South through Portland until you come to Exit #4. Take Exit 4, this will put you on US Route #1 South. Stay on US Route 1 South for 2 miles. The Best Western Merry Manor Inn will be on the left hand side of the road. The Registration desk is through the entrance under the carport.

Directions to the Cumberland County Civic Center

From the Best Western Merry Manor Inn

Go straight through the stop light in front of the Best Western. This puts you on the connector Road that runs between US Route 1 and the Maine Turnpike. Take your first right onto Intersection 295 North. Stay on Intersection 295 North until you come to Exit #7. Take Exit 7 onto the Franklin Arterial. Proceed to the 4th traffic light located at the corner of Middle Street and Franklin Arterial. Take right onto Middle Street. Follow Middle Street (The name changes to Spring Street just before Civic Center) to the Cumberland County Civic Center, which is located on your right. There is a parking garage attached to the Civic Center or you can park in one of the lots near facility.

Directions to the Cumberland County Civic Center

From Interstate 95 take I-295 to Portland. Take Exit #7, onto Franklin Street. Go through 4 sets of light. Turn right at the 5th light onto Middle Street. The Civic Center is 3 traffic lights ahead on the right. There is a parking garage adjacent to the Civic Center.

Hotels with Rooms Blocked For Wrestlers

For Special Rates let the Hotels Know that you are with the 

Marshwood Wrestling New England Tournament

Merry Manor Inn: Location: 700 Main Street, South Portland, Maine


Directions- from Interstate 95 take Exit 45 (South Portland), to Us Route 1, From Interstate 295; take Exit 2 to US Route 1, Main Street.

Howard Johnson: Location: 675 Main Street, South Portland, Maine


Directions- from Interstate 95, Get onto I-295 Take Exit 1 South Portland Merge onto Maine Turnpike Authority Approach Rd. Then turn left onto US-1 Main Street.

Hampton Inn: Location: 171 Philbrook Ave So. Portland Maine

Reservations: (207)773 4400 Group Code YWT

Directions- I-95 Exit 45,Follow signs for Maine Mall,Take Right on Philbrook Ave

Hotel will be on Right

Scoring Table Help

This has become increasingly popular over the last couple of years. 

Any team wishing to manage a scoring table, please contact us as soon as possible.

Responsibility includes providing scorers,taggers,& timers for the duration of the time you commited to(All day or half day). Consideration will be given to teams in the order in which they have responded. Thank You

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Face of the program: Gerry led Marshwood to state-title glory

By John Doyle

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — When Brett Gerry arrived for the James J. Fitzpatrick Trophy ceremony earlier this month, it was the only time the standout running back for the Marshwood High School football team felt like an underdog.

“I was a Class B player, so going to the ceremony wasn't a big deal,” Gerry said. “I figured I'd go and I wouldn't get it. But a bunch of people, my friends, family and community came and I won, and it was a special moment.”

PictureIn winning this year's Fitzy, Gerry became the first Marshwood player and first from the local area to win since Steve Knight in 1989, which was also the last year Marshwood won the state title (Class A) before Gerry's Hawks won the Class B crown in 2014.

Gerry is Foster's Daily Democrat's football player of the year after helping lead the Hawks to a 12-0 record, winning every game save one by a large margin.

“All season long, it was just the product of hard work,” Gerry said. “We all put so much into this season the players, the coaches, the community. It wasn't surprising, but it felt so good to see the hard work pay off. We stuck to it every week.” 

Gerry rushed for 2,263 yards and scored 32 touchdowns as a senior and averaged 12.3 yards per carry. He finished his career with 60 touchdowns.

Of all of Gerry's carries this season, none were more important than two late in the regional championship game against rival York. With the Hawks clinging to a one-point lead, in possession of the ball and needing a first down to be able to take a knee and put the game on ice, Marshwood went to Gerry.

“We had to get that first down,” Gerry said. “We couldn't give the ball back to them. I got the ball a few times in a row, got five yards each time. I thought it kind of showed what we put into the season and how hard we had all worked.”

Marshwood took a 14-0 lead against the Wildcats (whom the Hawks had beaten 41-12 during the regular season). York rallied and would have tied the game if not for Zach Mitchell's block of a point-after attempt (it was the second time in three years a Marshwood win over York in the regional final was decided by a failed conversion). 

It was a situation neither Gerry nor the Hawks had been in all season, having won their first two tournament games by a combined score of 114-0.

“I think earlier in the game we just weren't focused,” Gerry said. “We thought we'd walk out and kill them again. They got those big scores back to back, then we got our heads together. We said, 'let's show them who the better team is.'”

Gerry said “pretty much everyone” on the team blocked for him on those running plays.

“Jackson (Howarth) opened up the hole,” Gerry said. “I got the ball behind him. It was a power play. Just put your head down, get as many yards as you can.”

“It was a no-brainer,” Marshwood coach Alex Rotsko said. “We expected Brett go get that first down. It's nice to have someone in that situation you can depend on. We hadn't been in a situation like that all year, but we did a great job on that last drive.”

Winning the Class B state title with a 44-18 win over Brunswick was sweet redemption for Gerry and the Hawks, who lost in the 2012 state title game (44-42 to Mt. Blue) when Gerry was a sophomore. Gerry, who rushed for 275 yards and two touchdowns in the state title game, said he thought the Hawks underachieved in 2013, his junior year. 

“Two years ago that season was just surreal,” Gerry said. “We went from 2-6 (in Class A in 2011) to being in the title game. That year gave us kind of an identity. We knew we could compete and thought we were the team to beat the next year, but we didn't play like it. We thought everyone would bow down to us and that didn't happen. This year, we knew we had to work for it.”

To say that hard work has paid off would be an understatement. Now Gerry has his sights set on a fourth straight Class A state wrestling team title and a third individual title (he's a two-time state champion at 182 pounds). Next year he will take his talent to Hyde School in Bath, Maine, for a postgraduate year and figure out what sport, wrestling or football he would like to focus on in college.

“We'll see how that goes,” said Gerry, who said he is considering an athletic-training major in college. “But that's the benefit of going to Hyde.”

Wherever he ends up, he likely won't be an underdog. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Taking Life to the Mat

Wrestling coaches develop strong student bonds


Wrestling is the world’s oldest sport, dating back more than 5,000 years. Little has changed, except for a few safety measures — mats, head gear and mouthpieces. There are no balls, gloves, pads, helmets or sticks. 

There are no errant passes, outrun teammates or unlucky bounces of a ball. Its participants live at the intersection of anxiety and excitement because when they step into the arena, they walk in on their own.

It’s quite lonely out on that mat, and sometimes one’s success or failure, especially against an evenly matched opponent, depends on how well the wrestler has been trained. The relationship between coach and wrestler is different than that of a coach and an athlete in a team sport, demonstrably so. 

“In wrestling, you either man up or you don’t, and there is a ton of pressure, but as coaches, we teach them to go out there and do the very best they can. If they do that and lose, there is no shame. There will be a winner and there will be a loser, but if you know in your heart you did your best, you can hold your head high,” says Tom Rinehart, Irmo High School’s wrestling coach. 

Coach Matt Hall from Richland Northeast High School leads by example. He believes it’s a critical step in establishing the credibility he needs to motivate his wrestlers. “In a sport where respect is earned and weakness is not an option, you can’t expect to ask your kids to do something you can’t do. You have to go through the workouts with them and lead them both by verbal coaching and also by your actions.” That, he says, is the key to the strong bonds that develop between coach and athlete.

Wrestling is an individual sport; therefore, the coaches must ensure life lessons are learned early and make a lasting impression. “When you wrestle, you can’t rely on anyone but yourself. You have to be accountable for your own actions, whether you succeed or fail. You can’t blame number 65 for missing his block, or the shortstop for booting a routine ground ball. It’s you against your opponent for six minutes,” says Jason Sandifer, coach at Dreher High School.

“The greatest lesson is the fact that they are the designers of their own success. A person can find allies in life, but when it comes right down to it, one is in charge of his own destiny,” Coach Rinehart adds.

Wrestling is the ultimate personal sport, with success dependent upon one’s skill, speed, strength, conditioning and strategy. Sounds quite a bit like life. And, that, says the wrestling coaches, is the over-arching point — wrestling, more than many forms of athletics, helps build in its participants the character traits they need for success.

“Wrestling is all about sacrifice. In order to be successful in our sport, you have to give up a lot. If you want to be good, it can’t be a hobby for you. You’ve got to be dedicated,” says Lexington High School’s Derek Strobel.

As any parent of any teen can attest, the life of a high schooler is rarely about moderation. They live their lives at 1,000 miles-per-hour, almost 24 hours a day. They are, they believe, bullet proof and indestructible. Coach Strobel says it’s a hard sell to get a kid in high school to think about eating right and sacrificing social activities. 

“With wrestling constantly every weekend, we’re always at a wrestling tournament. It’s not like football where Friday night is the only night you play and you have the weekend to have fun with your friends and then you’re back to practice on Monday. You sometimes sacrifice holidays, too. When everyone else is out for Christmas break and eating pies and cookies and everything else, we’re practicing doing two-a-days.”

Practice is long, repetitive and tough on the body. Wrestlers get hit with takedowns, headlocks, cradles and cross faces that can sometimes be brutal. Wrestling is the road less traveled, though taking it doesn’t assure success, only the opportunity for it.

“Wrestling is a lifestyle. To say the words, ‘I am a wrestler,’ is a badge of honor, and as a wrestling coach I have to make certain my kids maintain what that label means. From the wrestlers’ standpoint, it means that they will work hard in every aspect of life, compete with passion no matter what the competition is, always do the right thing, be a leader, confront daily problems head-on without cowardice, win at everything in life, and do whatever it takes to be successful. When you are a wrestler, you say these things to yourself every day,” says Coach Hall. 

The relationship between coach and athlete is always a special one. Coaches are motivational and inspirational. They can be stern. They are a demanding bunch and especially unforgiving of carelessness. They persuade, exhort, cajole and sometimes just plain yell, but they push their athletes beyond the boundaries of their perceived limitations, both physically and mentally. Most of the time the result is a better athlete, if not a better person.

“From day one,” Coach Sandifer says, “wrestlers learn they must count on themselves in order to become individual champions.

A certain discipline that only wrestlers can understand has to be obtained. Early morning runs before school, dieting all day to make that certain weight for your team when all your friends are pounding pizza and chips, and sacrificing your social life to train is a grind that instills self-discipline, mental toughness and self-confidence.”

Of the many lessons wrestling teaches its grapplers, perhaps the hardest is how to win with dignity and lose with grace. In wrestling, athletes can’t dance or preen when they win; nor can they sling their bat or slam their helmet into the ground when they lose. Either way, they face their opponent, shake hands and move on. 

Coach B.D. LaPrad of River Bluff High School is one of the most respected of active coaches in the Midlands. He helped shape the lives and careers of countless young men, a few of them, like Derek Strobel, who became high school wrestling coaches themselves.

Coaching since the 1970s, Coach LaPrad has worked at Bishop England and Fort Dorchester in the Lowcountry, and Irmo, Dutch Fork and River Bluff in the Midlands. He is responsible for producing many of the wrestling coaches presently in the state’s high schools. “You can see his influence all over. He makes people love the sport and makes people want to give back,” says Coach Strobel. 

The secret to his success? “He makes people work, and people carry that work ethic with them when they leave,” Coach Strobel adds, but he may be biased. He is Coach LaPrad’s son-in-law. What’s not so secret is Coach LaPrad doesn’t let relationships stand in the way of a good contest. He trains his wrestlers to compete well, and, if possible, to win.

“You’re really out there surviving by yourself in a pretty stressful environment. Yours is the match everybody’s watching, so if you do well or don’t do well, it’s all on you. You have to win with class, and on the other hand you’ve got to accept defeat the same kind of way,” Coach LaPrad says. 

“One the toughest things you have to teach kids is how to lose. It’s tough because sometimes it’s embarrassing. A lot of times a pretty good kid gets really handled by another pretty good kid. I’m not talking about getting beat by a point; I’m talking about getting physically dominated. A lot of times it’s a hard pill for them to swallow, but it teaches you a lot about life. It’s not about how many times you get knocked down that counts, but how many times you get up. They have to learn that,” he adds.

Today’s society is one of immediate gratification and, while teenagers aren’t immune from that environment, wrestling doesn’t always carry with it the milieu of immediate success. This is where good coaching steps in. 

“A lot of times kids grasp anything positive that happens. And it’s a long road for some of them,” Coach LaPrad says. “Instead of getting beat by 10 points, you got beat by nine points, or you get beat by 15 points instead of getting pinned.”

He notes that one of the greatest satisfactions as a coach is not, as one might suspect, watching innately talented wrestlers succeed, but helping struggling wrestlers simply compete. “Obviously you’re excited for the ones who are successful, but if you coach for a while, you’re going to have kids who keep coming back and practice as hard as they can. Any little positive thing that happens just fuels a little fire in them. These are guys that 10, 12, 15 years from now, you see them and whatever they chose to do in life, whether their job is garbage man or CEO, they’re the best at their job. They learned to overcome … no matter what happens.”

Coach LaPrad believes one of the most important lessons wrestling teaches is how to conquer challenges. “You just have to keep going. You have to persevere no matter how hard things get. And even if you do, it doesn’t guarantee you anything except a chance.” 

Can coaches really make a meaningful difference in their young wrestler’s lives? Sometimes, actually, they are the only difference makers. “I used to coach a kid in Charleston,” Coach LaPrad says. “He was a rough kid and came from a rough area. Then, when he was in the ninth grade his family just took off and left him so I took him in, and he lived with me all during high school. He had a chip on his shoulder and had to learn how to do the right thing. He ended up being a great wrestler and was a state champ, two-time runner-up and went to college on a wrestling scholarship. He was the only person in his family who ever even graduated from high school. It was a constant battle for him to do the right thing, but he could always fall back on wrestling.”

Coach LaPrad told him if he graduated college, he would be there. Four years later he fulfilled that promise and flew to Missouri to watch the young man walk across the stage. “He was dealt a lousy set of cards. Wrestling really was his life as far as something he could hang his hat on and be successful. He wasn’t the greatest student but he worked at it. He had an attitude and a temper, but he overcame both.”

There are some awfully good kids who choose to wrestle, and there are plenty of kids in the sport who walk the edge. “They walk on that line where they’re almost falling backward into that bad, bad group of people and a lot of times wrestling saves them,” Coach LaPrad says.

These kids are tough, and a lot of times they’re wrestling because they feel like they have something to prove. They find success in that a lot of times and it really changes their lives. “Of course in order to wrestle, they have to do the school work, so the by-product of that is they get a good education and, a lot of times, have a chance to go to college where otherwise they may not,” Coach LaPrad says.

When nobody in their family has ever been, it changes the dynamic of their entire lives. The difference may be the sport, but making them successful in the sport, if not in life, is the coach. LaPrad says, “No matter what size you are in wrestling, you can compete. You always like to win, but the long-term stuff is the best as a coach.”

Dreher’s Coach Sandifer has a similar story about an athlete. Tywan, then 16, went into the kitchen one evening with his brother to get a glass of water. Instead, he got attacked by his knife-wielding mother. She cut him, and when he tried to disarm her, using a wrestling maneuver to protect himself and his brother, she bit him. By the time police arrived, she claimed her boys were trying to kill her. Muscular and strong, Tywan oddly found himself and his brother cuffed, shackled, and on the way to jail.

After the truth was revealed, the courts placed Tywan and his brother in a foster home away from Dreher, and away from wrestling. But his coaches worked to get him back and were finally able to help him transfer to Epworth which was zoned for Dreher.

“Unfortunately, this incident drew him away from wrestling,” Coach Sandifer says. Tywan had some big real-life issues to deal with. “As far as helping him along, we tried to, and I think it did help a bit.”

Sandifer believes Tywan applied the discipline and wrestler’s mentality he learned in the gym to navigate this situation that to most seems surreal, but to Tywan, given his mother’s abusive history, was only a bit beyond the norm.

Wrestlers often have to dig deep to find an inner reserve of strength just to get them through a match. Tywan found his and not only survived a horrible incident, but the multi-sport athlete also graduated from Dreher and earned scholarships to attend Lander University. 

Drive, discipline and determination; it takes all three to be a wrestler. Add to the mix a dedicated, caring coach, and the result is astonishing. It’s the positive energy that creates winners in every way.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Oak Hill wrestler Buteau back in comfort zone

The defending Class B state champion is shining in the 106-pound class

The defending 106-pound Class B state champion from Oak Hill spent much of this season wrestling in the 113-pound class. However, the sophomore dropped back to 106 pounds, where he plans to finish out the season. Oak Hill coach Ric Swett says Buteau is well-positioned to defend his state title.

“Danny is by far the most talented and capable wrestler I have ever had the pleasure to coach at Oak Hill,” said Swett. “He thrives on the workouts. Whether lifting weights, running or live wrestling, he out-paces every member of the team with his drive to progress on the mat. Danny’s love of wrestling keeps him involved most of the year in the off season, so he gets a good dose of competition to keep his technique sharp.” 

Due to weight management guidelines, Buteau has had to compete at 113 pounds for most of this season. He rolled up over 20 wins at that weight against just two losses, which came to Mountain Valley’s Caleb Austin. 

Buteau moved down to 106 pounds on Jan. 10 at the Skowhegan tournament. He cruised to the championship finals where he met defending Class A champion Cody Craig of Skowhegan. Craig prevailed 4-0. Swett is already looking forward to a possible Buteau-Craig rematch. The two cannot meet again during the remainder of the season because Oak Hill and Skowhegan compete in different conferences. However, the pair could meet again after the state meets. Danny should sail through the season-ending tournaments with no problem,” said Swett. “I’m looking forward to his rematch with Cody Craig at the New England qualifier.” 

After the Class A, B, and C state championship meets, the Maine Principals’ Association holds a qualifying tournament in which all state place-winners are eligible to compete for one of the three berths in each weight class to reach the New England championships, a six-state tournament. Last year, Buteau narrowly missed qualifying for New Englands. Buteau was disappointed, but soon put it in perspective. “I just told myself not to worry about it,” he said. “I have three more years and plenty of chances to make it.” 

Buteau has a clear vision for the rest of the season. “My goals for the rest of the year are to practice hard, win regionals and states and make it to New Englands,” said Buteau. 

• • • 
Mount View standout heavyweight Chris Cole has returned to the mats, which has bolstered the spirits of coach Hamilton Richards. Cole suffered an elbow injury early in December that threatened to sideline him for the season. “Chris has been working with a doctor, a chiropractor, and our athletic trainer to get back as soon as possible,” said Richards. 

Cole, whose season record stands at 12-1, has been able to pick up some forfeit wins during the season, but hadn’t competed in a match since he suffered the injury while wrestling Nokomis’ Jacob Nichols on Dec. 17. On Saturday, Cole earned two wins by pin against Belfast and MCI. 

“He showed a little bit of rust on Saturday against Belfast and we still need to get his cardio back where it was,” said Richards. “But he’s telling me he’s up for (the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference meet). So far, so good, but my biggest concern is prep for regionals and keeping him healthy. If he holds up through hard practices this week and is still raring to go Saturday, then we’re giving it a whirl. At the moment, the (doctors) seem to think he’s just going to be sore but the risk of re-injury is pretty low.” Cole finished third in Class B last season and also won three matches at New Englands. 

• • • 

Area teams will compete in conference championship tournaments Saturday. Monmouth, Oak Hill and Madison will compete at Mountain Valley High School in Rumford in the 10-team Mid State Tournament. Cony, Erskine Academy, Gardiner, MCI, Mount View, Mt. Blue, Nokomis, Skowhegan, and Winslow will be at Cony for the 18-team KVAC championships.

Monday, January 26, 2015

30 bouts slated for state’s first 2015 mixed martial arts card

Amber Waterman | Sun Journal

Ray Wood celebrates his first professional bout debut win over John Raio in November 2012 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.

LEWISTON, Maine — New England Fights has announced a marathon 30-fight mixed martial arts card for its debut show of 2015.
Ray Wood celebrates his first professional bout debut win over John Raio in November 2012 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
“NEF XIV,” set for Feb. 7 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, is scheduled to include seven professional bouts and 23 amateur contests.

“This card might just be our most ambitious to date,” said NEF co-owner and promoter Nick DiSalvo.
The pro card is headlined by two NEF title fights, one the return of former Bucksport resident Ray “All Business” Wood back to the Pine Tree State to make the second defense of his NEF featherweight crown.
Wood, who last fall moved to Gaffney, South Carolina, takes a 5-0 record under the Young’s MMA banner into his main-event clash with Bellator and World Extreme Cagefighting veteran Anthony “Cheesesteak” Morrison of Philadelphia.
With a 16-9 record, Morrison is expected to be a formidable foe for Wood, but NEF officials believe that with a victory in this bout Wood could draw closer to getting an opportunity to move up to one of the national MMA promotions.
The show’s co-main event has former National Football League player and current NEF heavyweight champion Tyler King (7-2) defending his title against Terry “The Polar Bear” Blackburn (5-2).
King, the son of former New England Patriots linebacker Steve King, saw NFL duty for the San Diego Chargers, St. Louis Rams, Jacksonville Jaguars and Arizona Cardinals before turning his attention to MMA and eventually appearing on the 19th season of “The Ultimate Fighter” television series in early 2014.
Among the other pro fights is a featherweight matchup between Derek Shorey (1-1) of Dover-Foxcroft and the Shatterproof Combat Club and Jon Lemke (4-3) of Marcus Davis’ Team Irish in Brewer.
The amateur side of the card will include a battle of up-and-coming featherweights between Dixfield’s Caleb Hall (5-1) of the Choi Institute in Portland and Dexter’s Josh Harvey (2-1) from Young’s MMA in Bangor. Both have extensive high school wrestling backgrounds, Hall at Dirigo High School and Harvey at Dexter Regional High School.
Also scheduled are separate bouts involving two of the three fighting Bang brothers from Auburn, Sheldon Bang (1-1) and Steven Bang (3-2), as well as their father Dr. Steve Bang, a 46-year-old bariatric surgeon with a background in wrestling who will be making his MMA debut.
A women’s bantamweight clash between Fernanda Araujo (3-3-1) and Hillary Cooledge (0-1) also is part of the amateur card.

‘Crowsneck’ gains title shot

Crowsneck Boutin will get his first chance to fight for an MMA championship belt on Jan. 30.
The Trescott native, who now lives and trains in Portland, will face Xavier Vargas of Plaistow, New Hampshire, for the vacant Combat Zone LLC amateur light heavyweight title as part of the CZ 52 card to be held at Rockingham Park in Salem, New Hampshire.
Boutin, who was scheduled to fight at NEF XVI until his opponent pulled out of their bout, won all three of his fights in 2014, most recently a first-round knockout of Ramon Saintvil at NEF XIV in Lewiston on Sept. 6.
Boutin, who was voted 2014 NEF fighter of the year, will take a 6-6 overall record into his 205-pound amateur title bout against Vargas, the third-ranked light heavyweight in New England according to Mass MMA.
Vargas (3-2) is coming off a loss in his last fight via three-round split decision in a heavyweight clash with undefeated Javier Velasquez at CZ 47 held Jan. 14, 2014, also at Salem.

Three high school state wrestling champs on rosters for Super Bowl XLIX

Three high school state wrestling champs at Super Bowl XLIX (from left): Justin Britt, Josh Kline, JR Sweezy
From left: Photos from STLToday, Mason High School, Mooresville High School, Wikipedia Commons
What makes Super Bowl XLIX so… super? Beyond millions of TV viewers, a halftime show featuring Katy Perry, and ongoing media scrutiny of what has become known as Deflategate, the 2015 NFL title game between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots is especially big this year because it features at least three players who, in addition to playing football, were also state wrestling champs.

Josh Kline of the Patriots, and R.J. Sweezy and Justin Britt of the Seahawks each won a state wrestling title as heavyweights in their respective high schools – Kline in Ohio, Sweezy in North Carolina, and Britt in Missouri. Despite their prep on-the-mat accomplishments, when they went off to college, all three hung up their headgear but held onto their football helmets, choosing not to wrestle beyond high school.

Britt, Kline and Sweezy certainly aren’t the first former wrestlers to take to the field in the NFL… or, even at the Super Bowl. Two NCAA heavyweight champs – Curley Culp of Arizona State, and Cal State Bakersfield’s Stephen Neal – went on to enjoy long, successful NFL careers… earn Super Bowl rings in the process… and even find a place in major sports halls of fame.

College Wrestling Examiner thought it would be fun to learn more about these former mat champs who are now playing in the biggest non-wrestling sports event in the US… and see what skill sets they acquired as high school wrestlers now come into play in professional football.

Justin Britt, Seattle Seahawks
Justin Britt, Seattle Seahawks Photos from STLToday,

Justin Britt, Seattle Seahawks

You couldn’t blame Justin Britt’s parents for expecting big things from their son. After all, when he arrived in the world at Fort Campbell, Ky. in May 1991, Justin weighed in at 11 pounds, 8 ounces. That “big baby” grew into a big young man, who excelled in three sports in high school in Lebanon, Mo., making his presence known on the football field and on the wrestling mat. After high school, Britt concentrated on football at University of Missouri… which paid dividends when he was drafted by the 2014 Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, starting all sixteen games of his rookie season.

Wrestling background: As a student at Lebanon High School in south-central Missouri, Justin Britt was a three-sport star, lettering in football (as an offensive left tackle), track, and wrestling. Britt won the Class 4 Missouri state heavyweight championship as a senior in 2009, compiling a perfect 45-0 during the season… with 30 of those victories by fall. In fact, his closest match was his title bout, which he won 6-2. The previous year, Britt placed sixth at state. He was two-time district champ, and three-time conference title winner.

Football background: In high school, Britt played on both sides of the line of scrimmage. He ranked as the No. 19 overall prospect (any position) in Missouri, according to, and was ranked by as the No. 86 offensive tackle prospect in the nation. Britt then headed to the University of Missouri, where he played football for the Mizzou Tigers from 2010 to 2013, after being redshirted for the 2009 season. He spent 2010 as a second string guard, before being promoted to starting left tackle for the 2011 season, starting all 13 games. He continued to be a starter in the offensive line for the remaining two seasons of his Missouri career, playing at both left and right tackle. Britt was the second of the Seattle’s two second-round picks at the 2014 NFL Draft. He just completed his rookie season with the Seahawks, having started in all 16 regular-season games.
NFL tale of the tape: 6’6”, 325 pounds, 23 years old

How a wrestling background helps with football: Tom Cable, assistant head coach and offensive line coach for the Seahawks, told the team’s official website in May 2014 how likes a wrestling background in his linemen, especially Britt. “Love it. Yeah, I love it. (Britt’s) competitive. Loves to grind. Loves to work. He’s got his priorities in line.”

Britt credits his mat background, telling, “I think that’s where my competitive edge comes from. In football, O-line doesn’t get looked at a lot. But you know you’re one-on-one every play with somebody. So either you’re going to win or you’re going to let him win. It’s whoever works harder and prepares harder. Being a wrestler, you get pushed to limits you didn’t even know you could be pushed to. Everybody is looking at you, and you don’t want to be the guy that gives up in front of however many people are there. So the adrenaline kicks in. You get a second breath of fresh air and you start going again.”

Josh Kline, New England Patriots
Josh Kline, New England Patriots Photo from Mason High School, New England Patriots

Josh Kline, New England Patriots

Josh Kline grew up in an athletic household outside Cincinnati. His dad and elder brother wrestled, but, at the beginning of his sports career, Josh played basketball. However, by high school, Josh Kline had switched to football and wrestling… winning a heavyweight title at the Ohio state championships as a senior.

Born in Hoffman Estates, Ill. outside Chicago in December 1989, Josh Kline and his family first moved to Hartville, Ohio in the northeast part of the state… then headed to the opposite corner of Ohio, settling in Mason, about 25 miles outside Cincinnati. After graduation from high school, Kline returned to northeast Ohio, where he attended Kent State University.

Wrestling accomplishments: As a senior at William Mason High, Kline was the Ohio Division I (large-school) champion in the 285-pound weight class. His record for the year was 45-1, with 32 pins. At the 2008 Ohio state wrestling championships, Kline pinned his first two opponents. However, in the semifinals, the Comet big man was taken into overtime by a wrestler who had beaten him in the past. Kline avenged that loss with a 6-4 win. In the heavyweight finals, Kline pinned his opponent, Delonne Baker of Sandusky, in just less than three minutes to claim the state title.

Football accomplishments: Recruited by Mid-American Conference (MAC) schools, Kline chose to attend Kent State because of its close proximity to his grandparents. As a senior, Kline primarily played left guard, earning second-team all MAC honors as the Golden Flashes had their best season in 40 years, going 11-3 overall, winning the MAC East title and playing in the MAC Championship Game. The New England Patriots signed Kline as a rookie free agent in May 2013; the former Comet/Golden Flash joined the 53-man roster as an offensive lineman in November 2013, according to the
NFL tale of the tape: 6’3”, 295 pounds, 25 years old

How a wrestling background helps with football: It was Kline's wrestling skills that caught the Patriots' eye when he came out of college. "Bill Belichick (Patriots coach) has always loved wrestlers as football players," Mason football coach Brian Castner told WCPO-TV, the ABC affiliate in Cincinnati. "Those skills marry well together." His high school wrestling coach, Craig Murnan, added, “It's hand-fighting and footwork. It's push-pull, one-on-one, and it's the same for linemen. What impressed the coaches was his great footwork. Plus, he has that mentality to thrive under pressure, like when you're wrestling in front of 17,000 people in the state finals. Those things and his work ethic, I think, helped him stand out as an undrafted free agent."

"He had the perfect recipe for success," Castner told WCPO. "The tenacity was there. The skills he developed at Mason helped get him a scholarship to Kent State, where he played for a great coach, Darrell Hazell (now at Purdue). When he didn't get drafted, he was lucky enough to land with the New England Patriots, one of the best franchises in the NFL. And now the Super Bowl. It's a great story."

Belichick said Kline has "come a long way," adding, “He was an undrafted player, spent time on the practice squad, spent time on the roster, hasn’t had a lot of playing time, but he’s a very tough, competitive guy. He’s smart. He learns well. He’s been a multi-position player for us.”

J.R. Sweezy, Seattle Seahawks
J.R. Sweezy, Seattle Seahawks Photos from Mooresville High School, Seattle Seahawks

J.R. Sweezy, Seattle Seahawks

“When J.R. Sweezy arrived in Seattle as a newly fledged offensive guard, he wasn’t just learning an NFL blocking scheme, and developing the wherewithal to forestall NFL pass rushers, or uproot mammoth NFL defensive tackles on run plays,” wrote Dave Boling of the Renton (Wash.) News-Tribune prior to the start of this past season. “He first had to master the three-point stance, and learn how the snap-count worked. It was as if being thrust into doctoral-level classes without having taken Guard 101.”

When he was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the final round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Justin Ross (J.R.) Sweezy had to give up the position he had played in high school and college and convert into being a guard. As Seattle line coach Tom Cable told Boling in August 2014, “(Sweezy’s) matured as an offensive lineman. He never had his hand on the ground (in an offensive stance); he figured it out last year and now he’s playing like he’s been there forever. The instincts are kicking in for him now. He’s seeing things early, with quick recognition.”

Wrestling background: Described in media reports as an undersized big man at Mooresville High School just north of Charlotte, N.C., J.R. Sweezy reportedly gave away nearly 50 pounds to nearly every foe he faced. Yet that didn’t stop Sweezy from having a near-perfect senior season, with a 40-2 record. He capped off his prep mat career by winning the North Carolina Class 3A heavyweight wrestling championship in 2007.

Football background: In his senior year as linebacker at Mooresville High, Sweezy recorded 195 tackles in 12 games, including six sacks, and recovered four fumbles. Sweezy then headed to North Carolina State, where he played 35 games with 20 starts along the defensive line, posting 86 tackles (65 solo), 22 tackles for loss, 11.0 sacks, 33 quarterback pressures, three passes defensed, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries for the Wolfpack. Voted team captain his senior season and was selected honorable mention All-ACC his junior year. Selected by Seattle in the seventh round of the 2012 NFL Draft, then had to make the transition from college defensive tackle to offensive guard in the pros. It all has paid off, as Sweezy is a member of the 2014 NFL Champion team, and owns a Super Bowl ring.

How a wrestling background helps with football: In an Oct. 2014 post to its Facebook page, Hazen Highlander wrestling program in Renton, Wash. – where the Seahawks’ training facility is located – described an interview Sweezy had given to KIRO radio, saying, “He attributes his body awareness, positioning, and relentlessness to the sport of wrestling. He stated that every high school student should wrestle. He also said that he can beat teammate and fellow state champion Justin Britt!”

NFL tale of the tape: 6’5”, 298 pounds, 25 years old
Curley Culp (retired)
Curley Culp (retired) Photos courtesy of National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Curley Culp

Curley Culp (retired)

There are two sides to Curley Culp. There’s the imposing physical specimen with broad shoulders and massive chest who made crowds go “ooh” when he stripped off his robe to wrestle, described by his high school wrestling coach as having “muscles on top of muscles on top of muscles ..." employing a strategy one of his rivals at the 1967 NCAAs said was "to get his hands on his opponent and destroy him with his strength." Culp pinned his NCAA finals opponent in less than a minute. Yet, Culp was an A student, member of his high school’s National Honor Society and president of the school’s Future Farmers of America… his Arizona State classmates voted him Homecoming King and “Boy with the Best Smile”… and his opponents in wrestling and football uniformly described Culp as a gentleman, according to a 2013 InterMat profile.

Born in Yuma, Ariz. in 1946, Culp was a two-sport star in both high school and at Arizona State, excelling on the mat, on the gridiron, and in the classroom. He later went on to an enduring NFL career that included a Super Bowl title, and culminated with induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August 2013.

Wrestling accomplishments: Curley Culp was a two-time state champ in Arizona, winning back-to-back heavyweight titles for Yuma High School in 1963 and 1964. After being heavily recruited by a number of colleges, Culp chose Arizona State because they encouraged him to continue in both wrestling and football. As a Sun Devil matman, Culp was a three-time WAC (Western Athletic Conference) champ and two-time NCAA qualifier, winning the title at the 1967 NCAAs at Kent State by pinning Dominic “Nick” Carollo of Colorado’s Adams State in just 51 seconds in the finals.

Football accomplishments: As a linebacker for Arizona State, Culp was named a football All-American by both The Sporting News and Time, one of the few college athletes to earn All-American honors in both football and wrestling. Legend has it that he was so strong, he broke the helmets of three of his teammates in practice. In the 1968 NFL Draft, Culp was a second-round pick of the Denver Broncos, which planned to switch him to offense… but, instead, during training camp, traded him to the Kansas City Chiefs where he was starting left defensive tackle. In his second season, he helped the Chiefs upset the Minnesota Vikings 23-7 at Super Bowl IV in January 1970. In 1974, he was traded to the Houston Oilers (now Tennessee Titans)… then, in 1980, to the Detroit Lions, where he concluded his career in 1981. In fourteen seasons, he was first- or second-team All-AFC five times, a six-time Pro Bowl selection… and owner of a Super Bowl ring. In August 2013, Curley Culp was welcomed into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

NFL tale of the tape: 6’2”, 265 pounds
Stephen Neal (retired)
Stephen Neal (retired) Photos from Cal State Bakersfield, New England Patriots

Stephen Neal (retired)

Here’s how wrestling writer Denny Diehl opened his profile of Stephen Neal in Jay Hammond’s 2005 book “History of Collegiate Wrestling”: “Stephen Neal was a five-sport athlete at San Diego High School in California who competed in wrestling, football, swimming, tennis, and track and field. When he finished fourth at the high school state championships his senior year with a 45-2 record at 189 pounds, it was a safe bet that few would have picked him to become a two-time NCAA heavyweight champion, World freestyle champion, and finally a 6’4”, 305-pound starting offensive guard for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.”

Born in 1976 in San Diego, Stephen Matthew Neal could be described as something of a “late bloomer” in a couple ways beyond bulking up after high school. For starters, he wasn’t heavily recruited by colleges, yet became one of the great heavyweights of his generation… not just in the US, but in the world. And, despite not having played football at all in college, Neal earned a place on an NFL team and earned three Super Bowl rings.

Wrestling accomplishments: Unlike the other wrestlers featured in this photo album, Neal wasn’t a high school state champ… and, in fact, didn’t wrestle heavyweight. He started his career at Cal State Bakersfield weighing in at about 230 pounds… only to bulk up to 270 pounds of agile muscle by the end of his career with the Roadrunners. Neal was a four-time Pac-10 champ (only the second in conference history), three-time All-Star Classic winner, three-time Midlands Classic champ, and three-time NCAA finalist, winning back-to-back heavyweight titles at the 1998 and 1999 NCAAs, the second title earned by beating future WWE and UFC star Brock Lesnar (then a junior at University of Minnesota) in the finals. For these accomplishments, in 1999 Neal was awarded the Hodge Trophy, often referred to as “the Heisman of wrestling,” presented each year to the nation’s best college wrestler. In the year immediately after his graduation, Neal made a splash in freestyle by winning titles at the 1999 Pan-American Games, US World Team Trials, and World championships, then being named FILA (now United World Wrestling) Outstanding Wrestler that year.

Football accomplishments: After retiring from amateur wrestling in 2001, Neal sought a new sports career path. Guided by US freestyle wrestler Matt Ghaffari and sports agent Neil Cornrich, Neal got a tryout with the New England Patriots, signing as a free agent in 2001. He made his on-the-field debut in October 2002, and, as an offensive lineman, was a member of the Pats when they won Super Bowl XXXVI, XXXVIII, and XXXIX. Neal hung up the pads in March 2011… and one year later, was welcomed as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla.

NFL tale of the tape: 6’4”, 305 pounds

How wrestling helped with football: In a 2013 interview, Neal told the San Diego Union-Tribune that wrestling had made him more fit than NFL players, saying, “The coaches saw that, this guy may not know too much about football, but he’s a hard worker and he’s willing to learn,” he said. “And so, I think they kept me around for those attributes that I got from wrestling.”

Buck Rasmussen, a defensive lineman on the Patriots' practice squad and a former state high school wrestling champ in Nebraska, told USA Today in 2005, “(Neal) uses leverage to his advantage a lot, body position and stuff like that. ... Wrestling really helps."

The Patriots weren’t always so impressed with the former mat champ. "When I tell you he didn't know where the field was, he didn't know where the field was," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was quoted in a 2005 New York Times profile of Neal. "He didn't know how to put his pads on. He didn't know where to line up. He didn't even know where to go in the huddle. When I say starting from scratch, we're starting from below scratch."

After Neal’s retirement, Belichick had changed his tune, saying, "They don't come any better than Steve Neal. In terms of improvement and development as a player, Steve may have accomplished more than any player I have ever been around. His toughness, intelligence and competitiveness were at rare levels and all contributed to him going from being a champion in an individual sport to being an integral part of championship teams.”