While Harrison’s varsity wrestlers were doing their best to qualify for sectionals this past weekend, the future of the Huskies’ program was also in action, as the Harrison Mat Club hosted 40 teams from around the area to compete in the Youth Wrestling Section 1 Tournament, which took place on Feb. 9 at Harrison High School.
Outside of one club team–which is comprised of wrestlers from all over Section I‑Harrison finished ahead of every other team, sending 20 wrestlers age 8 to 12 to states.
According to head coach Victor Arcara, the finish was the best in the club’s nine seasons, a testament to the growth of the sport in the Harrison community.
“When we first started entering the tournament, we didn’t place,” he said. “About three years ago, we took sixth, last year was fifth, so this year we were hoping for a top-five finish.”
Harrison’s success at the tournament was a result of several returning grapplers as well as some first-timers who have picked up the sport quickly.
“We had about 15 kids return from last year’s tournament and the new kids have been working really hard,” Arcara said. “They’ve been having an extra practice day, which definitely helped a lot, and we had about 15 kids come down from modified to help us score points.”
With nearly 400 competitors in action, the day was split into two separate sessions to help the tournament run more smoothly. Arcara said that his ranks–and the ranks of local youth clubs in general–have risen in recent years, thanks in part to more visibility for the sport.
“Varsity wrestling is out there in the papers, and on the Internet,” he said. “And a lot of these kids have brothers wrestling on the varsity level, so they want to do it too. That’s one of the reasons for its popularity.”
The state tournament will be a three-day event starting in Bayshore on March 7. Until then, the wrestlers will be doing their best to keep busy.
“We’ve got a week’s vacation coming up where the school is going to be closed so we can’t get in there,” Arcara said. “Other than that, we’ve got some tournaments in New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts scheduled before states.”
– Reporting by Mike Smith