First grade 56-pounder Joshua McMillan has gotten an early start in the sport as members of the Warrior Youth Wrestling Club.
First grade 56-pounder Joshua McMillan has gotten an early start in the sport as members of the Warrior Youth Wrestling Club.

Mini Warriors excel on the mat

Published 10:39pm Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Warrior Youth Wrestling Club has only been in existence since November 2013, but both its present impact and its projected future impact have been sizable.

The club welcomes youths from kindergarten up through seventh grade and has had that full range attend practices and learn basic moves and technique from head coach Jason Dunaway and assistant coach John Bostwick.

First and foremost, the club serves as a much needed wrestling developmental program within the city of Suffolk.

“We’re the only city on the Southside that doesn’t have middle school wrestling,” Bostwick said.

Fifth grade 108-pounder Antonio Treto has gotten an early start in the sport as members of the Warrior Youth Wrestling Club.
Fifth grade 108-pounder Antonio Treto has gotten an early start in the sport as members of the Warrior Youth Wrestling Club.

“We basically got it started to help build the high school program,” Dunaway added.

But Bostwick noted the club is not designed to service Nansemond River alone, though it holds its twice-a-week practices there.

“It’s not a Nansemond River program,” he said. “This is an open wrestling club for kids (throughout) the city of Suffolk.” Dunaway added kids from the King’s Fork and Lakeland districts also participate.

Bostwick said this diversity helps everyone in Suffolk, because if Nansemond River’s cross-city competitors become stronger, then it will positively challenge its own wrestlers to grow.

“It brings up the level overall,” he said.

Both Dunaway and Bostwick know from experience that to build strong high school programs, it is essential to promote the sport among the very young.

“When I grew up in Pennsylvania, I wrestled in an elementary school club,” Bostwick said, referring to when he was in kindergarten.

Like with Norfolk and Portsmouth public schools, Dunaway was the beneficiary of Chesapeake’s middle school programs that make its schools formidable opponents.

“I started when I was in fifth grade,” Dunaway said.

For the first night of the Warrior Youth Wrestling Club, Bostwick said, there were seven to eight youths. But by week three, that number had grown to 25.

“We had that many pretty much throughout the season,” Dunaway said, until recently when baseball and spring sports started kicking in.

Bostwick said they will plan to wrap up around this time next year and begin earlier in the fall.

Many of the first youths to come out were brand new to the sport. As part of the club, they have been able to participate in youth tournaments over the last five months, putting into practice what they have learned. The results illustrate how well they have paid attention.

David Brinkman, a fourth-grade 60-pounder, placed second in two different tournaments and won the Pin to Win tournament, a regional event, featuring wrestlers from the north side of Richmond all the way down to North Carolina.

His younger brother, first-grader and 50-pounder Joey Brinkman, took second in another regional-type event, the South of the James tournament.

“We’ve had one of our seventh-graders place pretty high,” Dunaway said, referring to 115-pounder Aaron Whear.

He took third in the South of the James tourney and won the Pin to Win event in his weight class.

The coach praised the consistency of fifth-grader and 108-pounder Antonio Treto.

“He’s placed third or fourth in every tournament he’s been in as a first-year kid,” Dunaway said.

Treto said even before he discovered the club, “I really wanted to wrestle.”

Now that he has his opportunity, he has been attentive to his coaches. He alluded to a benefit of their instruction that he applies, particularly when facing an opponent the second time.

“Now, if I wrestle them again, I finally realize what they will do,” he said.

Treto competed on Saturday in a Middle Atlantic Wrestling Association Preliminary District Tournament for the South Region at Nansemond River. He was one of two wrestlers from the club to place in the top three and advance to the MAWA South Regional tournament in Salisbury, Md.

The other wrestler was sixth-grader and 78-pounder Gabe Schimmel, who took second, like Treto.

Bostwick predicts the club could grow to include 30 to 35 young wrestlers next year.

“In the next three to five years, I think you’re going to see how this program affects our high school program,” he said.

The MAWA South Regional tourney will be held on April 12 and 13.

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