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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Wrestling for a new start

    Ben Papermaster, a business sophomore, right, tries to tip Akiva Kurland, a nutrition junior, in the Student Recreation Center Tuesday. The Arizona club wrestling team has made the sports biggest revival since the UA varsity team ended in 1981.
    Ben Papermaster, a business sophomore, right, tries to tip Akiva Kurland, a nutrition junior, in the Student Recreation Center Tuesday. The Arizona club wrestling team has made the sport’s biggest revival since the UA varsity team ended in 1981.

    Arizona’s club wrestling team grinds to the end of its first official practice Tuesday in the Student Recreation Center. The last hour and a half has been a grueling mix of conditioning, drills and “”live”” wrestling – 100-percent full-contact wrestling.

    “”One-minute wrestling feels like a lifetime,”” says team president David Addison. “”A couple minutes of live wrestling, that’s a workout.””

    First-year coach P.J. Rovinelli runs the team through sprints. After a couple laps around the ring, he tells each wrestler to pick up a partner and carry him on his back. Some of the men grimace under heavy payloads of up to 200 pounds. Not every wrestler is created equal. The men start to tire. The pace slackens a bit.

    “”Work! Work!”” Rovinelli shouts. “”Almost done! Work. Fight through it.””

    A few of the final sprints devolve into spirited jogs, but Rovinelli looks satisfied as he brings practice to a close.

    “”I put them through some tough drills, some tough workouts,”” Rovinelli said after practice. “”They’re excited. They’re really tough kids and that’s the biggest question in coaching, especially the sport of wrestling, is how tough mentally and physically your players can be. You can have talent, but it’s not the best thing you can have.””

    Addison, who founded the club last year, said he is happy with his team’s start. He hopes it is the beginning of big things for Arizona wrestling. Since the varsity program ended in 1981, wrestling at Arizona has experienced several revivals, but no club has created a lasting presence.

    Addison said jump-starting wrestling at Arizona hasn’t been easy.

    “”It was me and a couple guys last semester,”” Addison said as he looked out at the 24 wrestlers who came to practice. “”And now it’s really come full circle.””

    “”Last year we had trouble keeping 10 at practice,”” he added.

    In one year, Addison’s group has already come a long way towards establishing a solid team. Since last year, the team has added a coach, planned for a $40,000 budget and scheduled a rigorous competitive season. Addison said money continues to be the biggest challenge. So far this year, the team has raised $10,000.

    “”If we don’t get another $20,000 raised we can’t do everything we want,”” Addison said. “”That’s hard, but not impossible.””

    Everything the team wants includes competing against NCAA Division-I teams in November’s Fullerton Open in California, and a five-day trip to Boston at the end of that month. As in most club sports, the team will be paying for the bulk of its expenses. Members who want to wrestle competitively have to pay $650 each in dues.

    To meet the team’s remaining expenses, each athlete is sending a letter to 20 friends and family members asking for financial contributions. Addison and the team treasurer, Brian Erly, have also contacted local businesses and Arizona wrestling alumni for support.

    The team received $1,300 from the university to pay for uniforms. The sum represents a fraction of its expenses but was much appreciated.

    “”That was really huge for us,”” Addison said, adding that last year the team only received $150 in funding.

    While the dues may not sound cheap, Erly said wrestling at Arizona is a pretty good deal, considering dues cover travel expenses among other things.

    “”When you look at other extracurricular things going on, a frat or something would cost several thousand dollars,”” he said. “”I think we’re doing very well compared to that.””

    For those who don’t want to pay the $650 competitive membership, the wrestling club also offers what it calls the The Arizona Wrestling School at $175 for athletes who want to participate but not compete. This membership entitles members to full voting rights in the club, the ability to hold club offices and board positions, and one weekly practice.

    To match its

    These guys are working very hard. We’re running this like an NCAA program, and they’ve responded very well.

    – P.J. Rovinelli,
    wrestling coach

    ambitious budget aspirations, wrestling has brought in a motivated coach in Rovinelli, a two-time All-American wrestler at Springfield College and also the coach of the men’s club lacrosse team.

    “”I definitely do very long days,”” Rovinelli said.

    Erly said the addition of a real coach is paying dividends.

    “”The biggest difference is coach Rovinelli over there,”” Erly said. “”As much as we wanted to have a hard, serious program (last year), it’s really hard to make yourself run sprints at the end of practice.””

    “”He’s a stud,”” Addison said.

    So far, the admiration seems to be mutual.

    “”I’m very impressed,”” Rovinelli said. “”These guys are working very hard. We’re running this like an NCAA program, and they’ve responded very well.””

    Wrestling has a full season ahead of it. The team meets six days a week, lifting weights together Monday and Friday, practicing on the mats in the Student Recreation Center Tuesday through Thursday, and then holding informal workouts on Saturdays, not to mention looming dates with bigger, better-funded teams.

    “”We have an extremely difficult schedule,”” Rovinelli said. “”We’re going to two Division-I open tournaments. There’s going to be NCAA teams. We’re going to be wrestling against D-I and D-II teams in Boston, teams that I competed against while I was in college.””

    As practice winds down, the team huddles around Rovinelli. He congratulates them on a hard first day and tells his guys to hang in there.

    “”Continue to work hard. If you get through these first couple weeks, you’re going to be fine,”” he said. “”If you get tired, if you get discouraged, if you get muscle cramps, fight through it. You’ve got an opportunity to start something that hasn’t really been around for 25 years.””

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