The Galloway Township Middle School wrestling club is one of 12 teams competing in a middle school wrestling tournament at Ocean City High School today.
After a season of intra-squad scrimmages and one scrimmage against another first-year wrestling club, it will be the first time many of the athletes see live competition.
For at least one athlete, tonight’s tournament will be nothing new.
Michael Waszen, 12, is one seventh-grader who has been wrestling for quite some time, and he’s been doing it well.
He was finished second in the state in the 105-pound weight class in 2011.
In 2010, he won the 100-pound division of the Egg Harbor Township Junior Wrestling Tournament; the 96-pound division at the Highland Junior Club Wrestling Tournament; and was second at the Constantine Wrestling tournament in the 94-pound weight class in Blairstown.
He placed second at the Southern “Ram Tough” Youth Wrestling Tournament in the 115-pound division last January.
“I’ve been in clubs and competed in wrestling tournaments,” said Waszen, who competed at 130 pounds during the team’s intrasquad scrimmage on Monday night, Feb. 11 at the middle school.
His goals, like his accomplishments, are big. He eagerly anticipates the day he can wrestle for Absegami High School, which has a storied wrestling tradition. Beyond that, he wants to wrestle for Penn State, Iowa or Minnesota.
He began wrestling when he was seven years old. His older brother, Steven, is also a wrestler. He’s been wrestling for nine years, but he didn’t begin wrestling because of his brother.
“I just love the sport. I like the way it’s a team sport and an individual sport,” Waszen said. “I just like to do it.”
He doesn’t just enjoy being successful on the mat. He likes helping the other competitors on the team who don’t have any experience wrestling.
“I was able to help other kids and meet some friends who are in eighth grade,” Waszen said. “I’m always going to remember the people I helped this year, and how the team got better as the year went on.”
It all culminates today in what co-coach John O'Kane calls their "Super Bowl." Teams from Egg Harbor Township, Millville, Mainland and Upper Township, among others, will be involved.
This was the first year of the club, which O’Kane hopes to see become a full-fledged sport next season.
“It’s good to be able to add students who otherwise wouldn’t be doing anything,” Superintendent Dr. Annette Giaquinto said following Monday night’s Board of Education meeting, in reference to adding club sports at the school.
Parent groups funded the start-up for the program, including the cost of mats and other equipment. Maintaining that equipment isn’t as expensive, and Giaquinto said there was a small amount of funding available to continue to fund the club and help it advance to a full-sport next season.
This year, there were 21 wrestlers in the club this year. The roster included:
Kevin Watson; and