For student-athletes to reach their full potential in a sport as tough yet gratifying as wrestling, a strong support team is a must-have.
Members of the Chester Academy High School wrestling program have this vital resource. They are very well-supported by both their coaching staff and their teammates, in particular the team captains Mark Bruckenstein (senior, 132 pounds), Kwalin Gonzalez (senior, 170 pounds), Devin McGovern (senior, 285 pounds), and Teddy Szymanski (sophomore, 195 pounds).
“With any captain, you want to see factors that exude leadership,’’ said Chester head coach Jimmy Ehlers. “With all four of these guys, they all bring factors to the table that you want your wrestlers to see and follow.
“Not only do they display traits on the mat, but off the mat as well. We have captains that are driven in the classroom and work hard to make sure everyone around them is working just as hard.’’
The improvements made by the captains are not limited to wrestling.
“All of them have improved each year both on and off the mat,’’ Ehlers said. “Each year we try to bring something new into the room. We have had the motto to always ‘Be humble,' ‘Act like you have been there before,’ and most recently, ‘Always be learning’. This has been evident in the way each one of them have gotten better with each match. This also inspires the younger wrestlers to have something to strive for.’’
In their own distinctive way, each of the four captains propel their fellow wrestlers in the right direction.
“Mark has been a leader by always being one of the first ones in the room each day,’’ Ehlers said. “He will make sure that the mats are set up, each kid from Greenwood Lake or Chester has a ride, and will often times do the little things when leading the warm-up or making sure a kid gets a rep when drilling.
"Kwalin is one of our captains that was voted in by his peers, has been a leader by motivating the younger kids in to believing in themselves. Kwalin came out for the team as a junior and has shown that with hard work you can be an All-Section wrestler if you go 100 percent each time you step on the mat.
“Devin is a returning captain. He is a presence in the room and will always share his knowledge of the sport. He will be the biggest supporter for each kid that steps on the mat and talk to them after a win or loss. A lot of the kids look up to him, and he definitely shows the traits you want from a captain.
“Teddy Szymanski has the best record on the team, held off-season workouts for anyone who wanted to get a practice while football was going on. But most importantly, he helps each kid in the weight room. He is always trying to help them become stronger and has a lot of knowledge in this area.’’
Tourney on Feb. 16
The Hambletonians are scheduled to compete in the Division 2 Section 9 Tournament at Ulster County Community College on Feb. 16. A number of student athletes have substantially contributed this year.
“I believe we have a really good group of motivated guys this season,’’ Ehlers said. “I think the fact we strive to be better in the classroom is extremely important to why a lot of our older guys are getting better. Coach Voelker and I really preach how hard work is contagious to not only themselves but to others.
“Bryan Sahad (152 pounds) has been a huge benefactor to this. He works extremely hard in the practice room and has become one of our most consistent wrestlers this season. Another hard worker has been Josh Schmoyer (138 pounds). He is a very quiet and reserved individual but will outwork any wrestler in the room. Any person he wrestles, he makes better. He is always the one coach and I use as the example to work hard, how a drill is supposed to be done and what it takes to give everything they have in each practice and match.’’
“Each year we try to bring something new into the room. We have had the motto to always ‘Be humble,' ‘Act like you have been there before,’ and most recently, ‘Always be learning’. This has been evident in the way each one of them have gotten better with each match.This also inspires the younger wrestlers to have something to strive for.’’ --Head Coach Jimmy Ehlers