As the area experienced a beautiful Tuesday evening, Lake Erie Wrestling Club (LEWC) was busy practicing inside at Hamburg Middle School drilling and preparing for upcoming tournaments. LEWC is one of a handful of the area’s offseason clubs for youth, middle school, and high school wrestlers.
Eden High School head wrestling coach Tom Page is the club director & coach for LEWC. The club is coming up on its fourth anniversary since establishment later this fall. Coach Page was a high school and collegiate wrestler at SUNY Brockport with thirty years of coaching experience.
Each year since 2014, the club has doubled in size and it keeps getting bigger. Coach Page said that after spring session 2018 signups, the club reached maximum participation with 152 area wrestlers signed up.
“We have primarily south town schools” said Coach Page on the club’s membership. “About fourteen different schools are represented here this year.” Some of the teams represented at LEWC are Eden, Iroquois, St. Francis, Frontier, Hamburg, Lake Shore, Orchard Park, W. Seneca East, W. Seneca West, and Westfield/Ripley/Chautauqua Lake.
Coach Page formed the club in 2014 after identifying a need for a ‘south towns’ based wrestling club. And, while the team is a collection of wrestlers from many different schools, a parent in attendance at practice on Tuesday pointed out “Coach Page really wants all of the kids in this room to be champions.”
So far this spring, the LEWC high school squad has taken 2nd at the Viper Duals at Niagara County C.C. and 3rd at NYWAY States. Through the rest of the spring and summer, wrestlers from LEWC will participate in dozens of offseason wrestling tournaments, both freestyle and folkstyle, and will enter a team at the Nickel City Duals being held on Saturday, June 2nd at Buffalo Riverworks. LEWC fields a youth team for most events as well.
The club’s practices began in March and will run through the last week in May. Despite many athletes being involved in spring sports, the club has seen consistently high attendance through eight weeks of practices. “This is where my kids want to wrestle” said one parent whose sons were at practice on Tuesday. “This is the best club in western New York right now.”
Some of the area’s top wrestlers are regulars at Lake Erie practices. 2018 Section VI champions like Johnny Putney (E. Aurora) and Mohammed Alshawi (Lackawanna) and state tournament wildcards Derek Wojciechowski (Frontier) and Giovani Russo (Fredonia) as well as Chautauqua Lake’s New York State Champion Bryce Rowe can be found at Lake Erie practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays regularly.
The importance of offseason wrestling for scholastic athletes has become increasingly more evident over the last two decades. For some, it is a year round sport. Colleges, clubs, and individuals across the country continue wrestling after the end of the high school season through the spring and summer attending camps and clinics. The number of offseason practices attended and matches wrestled is an important statistic that most, if not all, high school coaches keep track of.
For LEWC, Coach Page takes a pragmatic approach to the offseason program focusing heavily on technique and live wrestling.
“You have to teach them to drill…it’s a learning curve to learn how to drill and train efficiently” said Coach Page on his offseason philosophy.
In addition to regular practices, LEWC has provided clinics open to area wrestlers each year. In only three full years, LEWC has hosted world class technicians like Cornell’s Kyle Dake (4x NCAA Div. 1 champion), University at Buffalo head wrestling coach John Stutzman, and American University head wrestling coach and World Cup silver medalist Teague Moore.
With a large membership, an active coaching staff, and a reputation for solid wrestling, look out for Lake Erie Wrestling Club and it’s rising stars as it works to be the premier wrestling club in western New York.