HUNTINGTON STATION, New York, Mar. 19
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
All of the money generated by the Wildcat Wrestling Club – a South Huntington youth wrestling program for kids in grades K-8 – is put towards building a culture for the South Huntington School District: a wrestling culture.
“The goal is to promote wrestling in the community,” the club’s head coach, Brian DeGaetano, said during the St. Patrick’s Day Wrestling Festival, which Wildcat Wrestling hosted at Walt Whitman High School on Saturday. “Last year we made a $10,000 investment to buy a brand new wrestling mat for the school and that was all generated through the youth program and the kids.”
Every person involved in the program – from the wrestlers to the coaches, alumni and parents – is invested in making wrestling a staple of the South Huntington community, DeGaetano said. That was evident on Saturday as the annual-Wildcat tournament drew 275 wrestlers from 20 clubs across Long Island and into New Jersey, Connecticut and the greater New York area.
The Wildcat youth program itself had 38 wrestlers compete – but the larger picture, DeGaetano said, was that all of those who helped set up, officiate and manage the day were there because they volunteered.
“The best part about this is that it’s a community effort… a true community event,” DeGaetano said. “Everybody is a volunteer… I just get excited thinking about it because everything is going back into the program. People want to be involved.”
People like the Wildcat Wrestling Club’s coaches, whose resumes DeGaetano said include being a high school physical education teacher, varsity wrestling coach and college wrestler. Take for example coach Michael McGuinness, a Whitman graduate who spent his day Saturday bouncing from mat to mat coaching Wildcats through their matches.
“We try to keep everything in the [South Huntington] family,” McGuinness, who was an All-County wrestler for Whitman before graduating in 1990, said. “Wildcat Wrestling gives the kids the opportunity to learn skills that will help them to be successful as they transition into the junior high school and high school programs.”
This sentiment is immediately evident when looking at former, and current, wrestlers for Walt Whitman High School. Vincent Feola, a Whitman senior, closed out his high school career as a two-time runner up in the New York State tournament. He is also an alumnus of the Wildcat Wrestling Club. Thomas DeGaetano, Brian’s son, is a freshman at Whitman who just finished an All-League season where he wrestled in the Suffolk County tournament.
Originally published: Long Islander News: The Long Islander
(Thursday, Mar. 19, 2015; A38)