Although the competitors at Chester Academy who participate in the great athletic activity of wrestling didn’t get to take part in dual meets or tournaments this past season due to the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, they did get the opportunity to enjoy the special camaraderie between teammates and coaches that the sport offers student athletes.
“I cannot say enough about the pride these student athletes have,’’ Chester Academy head coach Jimmy Ehlers said. “We conducted off season virtual workouts, meetings and just FaceTimed all throughout the summer talking about what they need to do to stay active when nothing is open. Our seniors and juniors really stepped up whenever Coach Voelker and I were not available. They were able to organize things and have the team look forward to any type of interaction.
“In terms of the practices, every kid was motivated and was eager to just get back on the mat. When we said we would have early morning practices, they were there. When we may have had to change times to 7 p.m., the kids were willing and able to change, as long as they got a chance to do something.’’
Section 9 Division 2 All Stars
A trio of wrestlers for the Hambletonians - Teddy Szymanski (junior, First Place, 285 pounds), Nick Dicurcio (junior, Second Place, 172 pounds) and Josh Schmoyer (senior, Third Place, 145 pounds) - earned Section 9 Division 2 All Star honors this year.
“Section 9 was able to come up with the COVID Section 9 All Stars,’’ Ehlers said. “This was a meeting held by the coaches to recognize the student athletes who missed out on the season that was not. Though this was a nice gesture, the seniors really just wanted the chance to compete. My heart goes out to every athlete that lost their ‘normal’ season and compete for the thing they trained so hard for. Other sports were able to schedule games and compete, but it becomes hard to do this without Section and States being that ultimate goal (during the wrestling season).’’
Ehlers has plenty of optimism for the future of the team.
“The kids really promote what the sport has done for them and encourage the kids to give it a try,’’ Ehlers said. “I think sports were a huge outlet for many student athletes. You saw grades and participation increase when they had something to look forward to. Our program reinforces the importance of doing their work at all times. This was even more relevant this year, the season was still unsure, but Coach V and I reminded them that at any moment they will start so be ready.
“The wrestling team is a family. They look out for each other, from the new upstart seventh grader on our club program to the senior athlete. This is the best part as a coach to see how these guys were able to pick each other up and come together throughout all of this.’’
The determination demonstrated by the student athletes involved with the Hambletonian wrestling team was certainly noticed by the coaches.
“I just wanted to reiterate that these kids showed extreme mental toughness throughout this whole thing,’’ Ehlers said. “They wanted, more than anything, just to have a chance. They were resilient from November, when the season was supposed to start, then was delayed, then delayed two more times. The kids were asking every day ‘any update coach’. To have to see their faces when you tell them you simply did not know was gut wrenching.
“When it was ultimately decided they would not be able to compete, the team asked ‘what now’. We were granted a three-week practice time period in which the kids were able to come and train. This is extremely hard in terms of motivation. Knowing they had nothing to compete for makes it difficult. But they showed up to each practice and made the best of what they were granted. This is where I commend these kids the most, the fact they still showed up, they still worked hard and had fun.’’