Most parents are always on the hunt for an activity to enroll their young children in. They look to dance and karate schools, as well as little league and soccer programs. But, many don’t know that in their backyard there is a free wresting program that has slipped under the radar for nearly 9 years.
The program, called Westhampton Youth Wrestling, is run by a team of skilled, volunteer coaches who two times a week, get on the mat and teach kids the art of wrestling.
The program was started by father and son Vinny and Jeff Ciolino, who wanted to provide another activity for the area’s youth in the winter.
The program, according to Brian Babcock, an assistant coach, brings in anywhere from 50 to 70 kids, between the ages of 4 and 12, each Tuesday and Thursday evening to the East Quogue Elementary School.
“They come from all over,” said Babcock, “From Hampton Bays, Riverhead, Rocky Point, Westhampton Beach and Quogue and East Quogue.”
During each session, the kids are broken up by age group and given the opportunity to practice their wrestling skills with a coach — parents are encouraged to take off their shoes and get on the mat as well.
“The gym is lined with mats and the kids can roll around and learn the basics,” said Babcock.
The kids are then given the opportunity to participate in friendly, weekend scrimmages and tournaments with other wrestling organizations in Suffolk County that are also affiliated with USA wrestling.
In Suffolk alone, he said, 400 kids, both boys and girls, are registered in a USA wrestling program.
Over the past weekend, Babcock, said 33 of his students participated in a tournament at the Eastport-South Manor School — each received medals.
“The most important thing is that these kids have fun and feel good about themselves,” said Babcock. “Wrestling is good mentally and for discipline.”
Over the past several years, Babcock said many of his students have gone to on wrestle in high school, successfully securing varsity spots.
“A lot of wrestlers have come through our program and have done well in the future,” said Babcock.
Parents are welcome to bring their children to any Tuesday or Thursday session to for a trial class. A donation of $75 is requested to cover uniforms, insurance, use of the school gym, and USA Wrestling registration, but the donation is not required for participation.
The program runs from December through March.
For more information, e-mail Babcock at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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