PHOENIXVILLE - The Phoenixville Area Police Athletic League (PAL) youth wrestling team hosted a meet against Avon Grove and Brandywine Youth Club on Feb. 1 at the Phoenixville High School gymnasium.
Phoenixville has 60 youngsters ages 5-13 (kindergarten through eighth grade) participating in its program that competes in the Inter-County Wrestling League (ICWL).
The head coach is Brian Martz. His assistant coaches are Brad Gilbert, Chas Pires, Bobby Romance, Josh Meister and Frank Cirone.
Cirone also serves as president of the organization.
“We have 60 kids in the program,” said Cirone. “We need to get 75 in the program. We have excellent coaches.”
The Phoenixville team has seven matches per year and two year-end tournaments, which include novice and open. There are 42 clubs in the league and close to 3,000 wrestlers in the league.
The wrestlers come from all over this part of the state, including Chester, Montgomery, Berks, Bucks and Delaware counties.
Wrestlers practice during evening hours two times per week on Tuesday and Thursday nights. The novice group includes wrestlers with just one or two years of experience. They practice from 6-7 p.m. The more advanced wrestlers practice from 7-8:30 p.m.
The annual ICWL Championships will take place March 9 with trophies awarded to wrestlers finishing in first through fourth place in their respective weight classes. Tourney shirts go to those who finish in the top three in their weight class.
There are four age classes of wrestlers at the championships: Bantam, Midget, Junior and Intermediate. Bantam weights are 43 pounds, 47, 50, 53, 57, 60, 65, 73 and 106.
Midget weights are 52, 55, 58, 61, 64, 67, 70, 73, 76, 80, 86, 93, 105 and 153.
Junior weights are 62, 66, 70, 74, 77, 80, 84, 87, 90, 97, 105, 115, 130 and 189.
Intermediate weights are 75, 80, 85, 90, 95, 100, 105, 110, 115, 120, 128, 136, 146, 160 and 233.
“We try to introudce them to wrestling basics and let them have fun before they go on to middle school and high school,” said Martz. “Wrestling is not a sport for everyone, which is why we try to keep it fun, especially for the younger guys. Typically, we have 50-60 kids wrestling in the program. It is also a sport from kindergarten to eighth grade, so there is quite an age range.”
Martz said the youth team has received solid support from the Phoenixville Area School District in terms of getting the word out about the group with flyers leading to registration. The organization also had a float in the traditional Dogwood Parade with kids on the float.
“We wanted to have name recognition on the float to let them know there is a youth wrestling team in Phoenixville,” said Martz. “We want to keep generating interest. We’ve had our relationship with PAL as long as I’ve been here, which is 12 years. We keep wrestling out there. The kids are involved in season, with postseason and then during the summer. Coach Sidlo (Phoenixville High School coach Mike Sidlo) and I had open mats for kids from youth through high school to roll around and work out during the summer.”
Phoenixville’s aim is to have kids wrestle 15 to 20 matches per year in their first or second year with the sport. Then, for the more experienced wrestlers, that number is raised to 50 or 60 matches.
The Saturday league tournaments are designed to get youngsters acquainted with tournaments that are scheduled during their middle school and high school years. The weight range is 45 pounds to 150 pounds. Phoenixville began participating in these tournament about five years ago to get kids the opportunity for exposure to what lies ahead for those who want to pursue wrestling at the scholastic level. This includes the introduction to making weight for specific weight classes and then maintaining that weight throughout the season.
“We try to remember that they are kids and they have lives outside the wrestling room,” said Martz.
Two league meets remain on the slate prior to the Novice and Open Championships.
After that, some of the wrestlers will attempt to qualify for the Pa. Junior Wrestling State Tournament as well as the Eastern Nationals. Phoenixville has one youngster, Brady Pires, 7, who placed fifth at the Eastern Nationals last year and has returned to the program.
“At states we are in Area 11, which is the toughest region,” said Martz. “Area 11 wins the most medals. We feel we have a couple kids who have a shot.”