EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 28, 2013

Seabrook wrestlers bring political fight to the mat

Hoping voters will pay to buy equipment

By Angeljean Chiaramida
STAFF WRITER

---- — SEABROOK — There is an old adage that claims politics is an old man’s sport, but that’s not the case for some middle schoolers behind a petition on this year’s Town Meeting Warrant.

The petition — Article 45 — requests $10,000 to purchase a wrestling mat for Seabrook’s Recreation Center in order to establish a youth wrestling program there, and if voters approve in March, it would add a small fraction of a cent to the tax rate.

Although not recommended by the Board of Selectmen, the Budget Committee gave the petition its stamp of approval after the middle school wrestlers behind it testified at the public hearing to fight for their cause in the democratic process.

“They did a good job at the public hearing; I knew they would,” said Seabrook Middle School wrestling coach and school resource officer Jim Deshaies. “If they want something, they know they have to work for it.”

Seventh-grade wrestlers Michael Brown, Dylan Colpits, Michael Dow and Jaden L’Esperance, along with eighth-grade wrestler Billy Menas, started the petition movement, and most showed up at the public hearing. They might not be old enough to vote, but they didn’t let that stop them. The group gathered at least 25 signatures from adult registered voters needed to get the question certified to be on the ballot.

“I think I got 30 people to sign, and the others got some too,” said Michael Dow. “I think it will be good for the younger kids to get involved with wrestling (at the Recreation Center). I know a lot want to.”

According to Billy Menas, his younger brother really wants to follow in his footsteps and learn wrestling, which is a centuries-old Olympic sport, present in the original games when they began in Greece.

“My brother tries to wrestle now with his friends on their own, but they can get hurt that way,” Billy said. “This way, with a program at the Rec Center, they’ll learn the right way and it’s safer for them.”

His petition-mates agreed. All know younger children who want to wrestle and are currently trying it without supervision in ways that can cause injury.

The Ram wrestling team at the middle school is only four years old. But the team has achieved a good deal of success in that short time. Not only have Ram wrestlers done well against other schools on the seacoast in after-school meets, but also at the regional and state championships. Medals and awards have been brought home by both individuals and the team on many occasions.

That sense of personal achievement isn’t lost on Deshaies’ wrestlers, and they see the sport as a good thing for themselves and others. Even those who have been involved for only a year or two are able to do well if they work hard, the boys said. It doesn’t matter how muscular a candidate is, they said, or even if the wrestler is a girl like Brianna Bowden, who’s on the team this year.

“It’s a sport for everybody,” said Dylan Colpits. “Everyone can have an opportunity with wrestling.”

The boys said that unlike the sports of basketball or football, where those of a height or size gain advantages, wrestling has many levels to accommodate the largest and smallest competitors.

“When you wrestle, you wrestle someone your own size and your own age,” Michael Dow said. “That’s why it doesn’t matter how big you are.”

Needing brains and strength, good wrestling requires an understanding of strategy as well as good physical form, the boys said. It builds self-discipline, they added, as well as independence and confidence.

“You’re all by yourself when you’re out there on the mat,” Michael Dow said. “You have to depend on yourself.”

Recreation Department Director Sandy Beaudoin wasn’t involved in the petition movement’s beginning, but she’ll work to help build the program if voters give the go-ahead.

“We’ll need to get sponsors to pay for uniforms, and we’ll have to find volunteer coaches,” Beaudoin said. “But I’m all for giving our kids as many opportunities as possible. The more kids are exposed to different sports, the better.”

Seabrook Recreation already has an extensive program of team sports, including multi-teams in leagues for flag and tackle football, basketball, softball, soccer and cheerleading.

“Kids that get into trouble are often those who aren’t involved in sports,” Beaudoin said. “You don’t have to go out and get into trouble to expend your energy if you’re involved in a sport. You use your energy in sports.”

Voters will have a chance to weigh in on the wrestling contest at the polls on Tuesday, March 12. Voting takes place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., appropriately enough, in the Recreation Center’s gymnasium.