For Norwich grapplers, improvements go hand in hand with dedication

“When you speak about wrestling, people usually speak about the physical aspect of the sport, because of words like takedowns, clinch fighting, and pins usually revolve around the sport,” said Norwich head coach, Alex Whitney.

To the coaching staff and the 33 players on the Norwich wrestling team, wrestling is more than just a physical sport. “It is lifestyle filled with structure, tradition and guidance. Wrestling is a brotherhood for the strong and unique. It’s a sport that gives a lot of people purpose,“ added Coach Whitney.

The New England Wrestling Association has the cadets ranked at 10th in the conference, with an overall record of 5-7. The cadets placed fifth in the Ithaca Invitational, seventh in the Roger Williams Invitational, seventh in the all academy meet, and second in the Northern Atlantic Championships.

“I’ve been wrestling for about 10 years now. I remember being in middle school and me and a buddy of mine wanted to sign up for winter sports, so we thought wrestling would be cool. We watched it on TV all the time, I thought the tryouts were going to be like the WWE. I expected jumping off chairs and tables. Little did I know, it was nothing like TV. The sport was structured and came with a lot of rules and regulations, and once I got on the mat and got my first win, I was addicted to the sport,” said Mike Babbin, a senior wrestling captain and senior communications major from Plymouth, Mass.

The wrestling team is a pretty competitive group of guys. “We’ve got each other’s backs and we’re always finding ways to get better on and off the mat. Just look at our team goals, which consist of doubling our wins this season, which we have already accomplished. Another would have to be bringing home at least three national qualifiers, three academic All-Americans and basically just wrestle,” added Babbin.

Norwich’s leading wrestlers this season are 165-pounder Dave Pinto, who is ranked third in the NEWA; 174-pounder William Burns, who is ranked fifth in the conference, and at 285 pounds, heavyweight Anthony Joyce, who is ranked 4th in the conference.

“The two of them are a great representation of what Norwich wrestling is all about. Both Pinto and Burns are good at their trade, and just like everybody on the team, those two are always putting in hard work and striving for more on and off the mat,” said junior Aaron Sylver. Off the mat, the wrestling team has a cumulative GPA of 3.2, with 10 members achieving a 3.5 or greater.

According to assistant coach Connor Keating, Norwich wrestling practices are typically two hours long. The first hour is stretching and getting the players’ bodies ready for battle. Following is a lot of live wrestling. “The team is in there, beating up on each other, working on form and getting better.” The last portion of the practice is usually some form of conditioning, or just more live wrestling.

“The beauty of wrestling is it teaches you a lot more than just wrestling. There are so many parallels with life and wrestling. There are so many trials and tribulations that life puts you through that could be directly related to wrestling,” added Connor. “I know personally the sport gave me the work ethic to get through college and kept me in the best shape of my life. The sport really helped me find myself and it’s having the same effect on our boys.”

“I’ve been wrestling since the seventh grade. Wrestling is everything to me; all the major decisions I have made in my life have been based on wrestling. My military and college experience is based around wrestling; all my best friends have been on the wrestling team. As a child and now as an adult, wrestling has motivated me to do my best in school. If you didn’t get good grades, you couldn’t wrestle,” said Lt. William Burns a 21-year-old junior business management major from Mascoutah, Ill.

Burns has an outstanding individual record of 20-5 and he has already beaten last year’s NEWA number one wrestler Mike Labell and is making a huge impact in the league.

“Wrestling is a band of brothers kind of thing because of what we go through and put each other through. The relationship that we have couldn’t compare to anything else. My brothers and my practice partners are attribute to my success. We go hard in the gym every day, we try to kill each other and push ourselves to the limit,” added Burns.

“In the sport of wrestling, injuries are very common,” said athletic trainer Joe Martinez. Trying to make sure nobody gets hurt is a big priority.

To be a wrestler you have to be tough, mentally and physically.

“Some of these athletes could get cut to the white meat, get a few stitches and be ready for the next practice.”

“The punishments these guys endure is impressive. Not only are the wrestlers tough, but they’re disciplined. A lot of the wrestlers responsibly keep a close eye on their eating habits in order to compete and make weigh-ins in a healthy fashion,” added Martinez.

Wrestling has taught coach Whitney and the team a lot about failure and success. Whitney’s first year as head coach, the team went 2-9 and “with a lot of planning and hard work,” the cadets are now 5-7 with a lot of wrestling this season.

“You can’t have success without failure. Wrestling will teach you how to keep on screaming and fighting for what you want; if you want it bad enough you’ll get it,” said Whitney.

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