A Look Inside The Sports Community: Wrestling Edition

Credits to Albany City School District website.

Credits to Albany City School District website.

Arianna Costello, Editor-in-Chief

Sports through the ages have been built on one thing: community. Through outdoor, indoor, team, individual, and partner sports, a sense of community binds the team together. This is what makes a good team, and why chemistry is so important. Without a sense of community there is no communication and trust, which therefore makes people lose more times than not. Some sports and organizations are better at this than others. The closer the team, the more likely they will win because they communicate well and anticipate the others moves easier. Some may argue that in individual sports like wrestling, community is not as important. However, it is just as important because it allows the athlete a sense of belonging which usually improves their performance.

High school sports are a beast of their own. Tens to hundreds of kids come together to form a team that goes against countless other teams. Each individual athlete has a role, but overall the overarching sense of trust and community provides a stable foundation for these student athletes to achieve their highest potential. For high school athletes, there is a much higher chance that their teammates are the people they grew up with. This provides a much stronger commutative feel going into the seasons. Another interesting aspect of high school sports is that they are much more likely to have their coach be their teacher than in college. This provides a sense of trust and community in the leadership before seasons even start.

With this unique opportunity to build trust on and off the field, some take advantage of it, some don’t. The Albany High Wrestling Varsity and JV teams are co-ed with three coaches combined. The Varsity Coaches are Paul Florio and Mattew Sitors, and JV is Liam Fitzpatrick. Mr. Floro is a high school gym teacher at the high school, Mr. Sitors is a Health/gym teacher at Hackett, and Mr. Fitzpatrick is the Living Environment and Nano Teacher at the high school.

When interviewed, they had quite the insight. They were all given the same questions and their answers showed off such a tight knit community. Mr. Fitzpatrick, the first to respond, said in regards to what got him into being a wrestling coach, “I think wrestling is the greatest sport. It combines all aspects of athleticism and requires incredible discipline and focus under pressure. I don’t think anything else matches wrestling in this way. That’s what makes me want to be a wrestling coach.” Also, in reference to a shining memory from the season that filled him with pride, he said, “As the JV coach, I think my proudest moment was our final JV tournament where everyone really showed their improvements. We gave it our all and I think everyone who made it through the season should be proud of the effort they put in.” Finally, when asked about one piece of advice he would give to all the student athletes out there, he said, “The most rewarding pursuits are the ones that you put your curiosity and consistent effort into. It’s never easy or simple, but you have to learn to love the process and that’s when something is really worth doing. Keep trying to find that path!”

Mr. Florio responded there after, answering the three questions. Responding to what got him into being a wrestling coach, he said, “I have been around the sport of wrestling my whole life. I love helping student athletes make lifetime memories and achieve goals by working hard.” When asked about the season, and a shining moment of pride, he said, “Our team is made up of students from so many different cultures and backgrounds. I am most proud when I see them pushing each other to succeed, sitting mat side cheering each other on and win or lose giving each other a pat on the back.” When asked about the one piece of advice he would give to all the student athletes out there? “Show up to practice every day, especially on the days you don’t feel like it.”

Last for the coaches, but not least was Mr. Sitors. He also answered the same three questions. In reference to what got him into coaching wrestling, he said, “I started coaching because my Varsity HS coach was someone I looked to as a role model (why I decided to become a teacher) and I had a love of the sport as well as the lessons it teaches.” When asked about the season he had, and a shining moment of pride, he responded with, “So many different moments come to mind. Overall it is having so many of our student athletes reach personal goals (which were different for all of them). Some of the goals included; being a tournament champion, qualifying for sectionals, having a winning record on the season, winning a match or even just competing in a match). Having some of our female wrestlers compete in an ALL- GIRLS tournament was also another shining moment for us (first year new york has held in season events such as these).” Lastly, in regards to one piece of advice he would give to all the student athletes out there, “As I tell Health students of mine is to set goals and think about them while you are making choices throughout the day.”

Maya, a Senior at Albany High, and one of the two only girls on the team, had some interesting insights into how gender affects the sport. She competes for varsity. When interviewed about being a female in a male dominated sport she said, “It was very difficult being in a male-dominated sport. I needed to work harder because they would always have the upper hand when it came to strengthening so I needed to make it even with my skill. It did hurt every time I lost because then I would question myself if I put all this effort into just losing was worth it. I was lucky to have a coach like Florio and Sitors who helped me realize that when I do win it would be the best feeling ever!” When asked about people in the field and their treatment towards her, she responded by saying, “I had such an amazing and supportive team, especially with my wrestling partner Harriet, it made it better this season to have another girl on the team, and the team Captain Tabriz always treated me equally and was proud of me when I won.” In reference to facing discrimination due to gender, “I never faced discrimination but I knew the guys needed to get comfortable with wrestling a girl. By the end of the season, I can happily say I met so many amazing people and had a fantastic time hanging out with guys during the tournaments. I even got to spend time with my nephew’s CBA team and their coach who welcomed me with open arms.” In response to what drove her to wrestling, she said, “What drove me to wrestle was me as a person wanting to push me and get out of my comfort zone.” When asked about the best thing about wrestling, “I did have more losses than wins but those wins were the best thing ever because I would cherish them and see how proud my coaches and my parents were of me.” Also, to answer about the future she sees for herself in wrestling, she said, “I don’t think I would continue wrestling in college seriously but I might as a club.”  Finally, in reference to progression from last year she responded, “Well over the summer I decided that my last season would be different. So over the summer on my breaks as a lifeguard I would go up to the gym and work on getting stronger and I would practice some skills that I learned. I keep in mind that this was the last time I can prove to myself that it was worth it.”

Klue, another senior at Albany High this year, also gave insightful thoughts on Wrestling and his personal journey. He has been a part of the program since 7th grade. In reference to changes in the program, he said, “Nothing has changed but we are seeing more kids interested in wrestling.” In regards to how he started wrestling, he said, “Wrestling was an outlet for stress when I wrestle I have nothing to think about except what I’m doing in the moment. And I wanted to challenge myself.” In response to his future in wrestling, he said, “Wrestling means a lot to me as it has introduced me to many people and taught me discipline.” When asked about the challenges and injuries he’s overcome in wrestling, he said, “I think overcoming the basic was the hardest thing and trying to get into wrestling condition is one of the hardest things I’ve experienced in any sport. I had broken my hand and fractured my fibula.” Finally, on how the Albany high wrestling team affected the way he pursues life, he said, “Yes it has taught me to that you’re the only person that’s able to affect your life and it taught me that you yourself must fight for what you want because no one else will for you.”

Studying/seeing how people think, and why/how people do things is so important. Studying communities, cultures, and people is how we learn as humans, how we know anything we know today. Communities in sports specifically, because of the basis of this article, are very important to the development of our youth. Who/what people are around growing up forms them. Wrestling and its community, its history, and its modern changes show so much about human behavior/trends. The Albany High Wrestling teams, seem, under examination, a strong knit community full of diversity and kindness.