By Greg Levinsky
BU News Service
This article was previously published in the Brookline Tab.
BROOKLINE — Wrestling changed Daniel Solomon’s life. Now, as a senior tri-captain for the Brookline High School varsity team, he’s trying to share the benefits of the sport with children in town.
Solomon coaches and mentors children in elementary and middle school as a part of the Brookline Grapplers Booster Club youth wrestling program, which holds clinics and tournaments in which kids can try wrestling for the first time or improve their skills.
“It’s a wonderful experience for the kids and us – to see them build up strength in a way you can’t do in other things,” Solomon said.
Blumit Shmolak brought her son Ariel Rabinovich, 10, who is in his second year of wrestling, to the Brookline Fall Brawl youth wrestling tournament Nov. 11 at Brookline High School. Solomon and the rest of the high school team were there to help the kids with their moves and referee a competition.
“The mentoring piece that they added this year seems to be a great excitement for the younger kids,” Shmolak said. “It’s a good example.”
Solomon began wrestling as a freshman at Brookline High with no prior experience. He found it to be an outlet for personal change. He had been struggling with his grades, he said, but rekindled himself once he turned to wrestling.
“Coming from eighth to ninth grade, I was this fat goob of a person,” Solomon said. “When I worked out with the wrestling team and learned I could conquer someone it changed the course of my life.”
The 18-year-old said learning to win wrestling matches has helped him to succeed in life.
“It’s a tremendous amount of hard work,” Solomon said. “It makes you better in a way that nothing I’ve ever done has.”
Solomon plans on wrestling at New York University starting in the fall.
“Turning it around and getting recruited for a sport was huge for me,” he said.
The role of the Boosters
Steve Albanese became the president of the Brookline Grapplers when his son Luke, now a junior at Brookline High, joined the wrestling team. Parents started the Grapplers booster club, which is now made up of current high school wrestlers and their parents as well as alumni. Albanese said the goal of the Grapplers is to “promote the sport of wrestling in Brookline youth through high school.”
“We’re trying to bring it to everybody,” he said.
Steve Bottiglieri has two sons who wrestle, Hayden, an eighth-grader and Brendan, a fourth-grader. Bottiglieri wrestled at James Madison University and has been involved with the Brookline Grapplers youth program for two years.
“I think it’s amazing,” Bottiglieri said. “They’re doing a phenomenal job showing them that it’s for any size, weight or age. Your success is solely dependent on how much you put into it and how much you’re willing to persevere through challenges.”
Female program grows
Bior Guigni, the program director and head coach of Boston Youth Wrestling, brought some wrestlers to the tournament Nov. 11.
She wrestled in high school as the only girl on an all boys team and then moved on to Menlo College where she joined what she described as one of the first female collegiate wrestling programs in the country.
Boston Youth Wrestling has a girls-only program, and Guigni said female wrestling is growing at an all-time high at the collegiate and high school levels.
“Wrestling is just a tool that we use for this program,” she said. “We found the biggest difference you can see is for the females in this sport.”
She said girls in the program gain confidence and teamwork skills. “There’s more self awareness,” Guigni said. “They’re great leaders.”
Mike Hewitt brought his 7-year-old son Daniel to one of the Grapplers’ clinics and later the tournament. He said the high school wrestling team working with the kids is pivotal for their development.
“The best thing is having the high school kids here,” Hewitt said. “They listen to them a lot more than they would me.”