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POV: A community coach remembered

The author is the publisher of Spotlight Newspapers.

I was in a panic.

It was five minutes before my son JW had to hit the mat for his match and I couldn’t find a coach. JW, 11, was in his second year of wrestling. He had almost no tournament experience. I had no idea how to help him through a match. There was a sea of people ready to watch JW wrestle. And we were on a desert island without a coach.

For those of you who haven’t experienced a youth wrestling tournament, it is where 300-plus 7-to-15-year-olds meet in a gym on a weekend morning and duel it out for eight hours on 10 different mats. It is organized chaos.

Coaching was nothing new to me. I coached both my children in many sports because, if I played it, I could at least understand how to coach it at a basic level. But when it came to wrestling, I had no clue. I would sit on the side of the mat watching JW wrestle and murmur, “Er… Go.”

With no maroon BH-BL coach shirts to be seen through the swarm of people, I had a glimmer of hope. I spotted Lori Blatnick, one of the Burnt Hills Youth Wrestling organizers walking by and I shot up a flare.

I explained my situation, with lots of hand motion and wild eyes. She smiled and said, “I’ll take care of it. Go back to the mat and I’ll send a coach over.”

Relief. I took my place next to JW and waited for the first match to end. We were up next.

Just in the nick of time, I felt a large hand on my shoulder and I looked up to see a massive person kneel between JW and I.

“Are you ready, son?” He asked.

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