Information and History

Winter 1996/97

This document provides general information about Maryland's most successful and nationally recognized wrestling club, Southern Maryland Wrestling Club. The winner of eighteen National Club Championships and many state and regional titles, SMWC is an open all-age and junior age all-star club. The club is well respected among regional high schools and colleges, and features a number of national champions and one recent Olympian on its roster.

History of Our Club

The current SMWC was originally called the Kettering Cougars, and was sponsored by the Kettering Boys and Girls Club. Two teams were maintained by Kettering, one beltway level practicing at Largo High School, and one junior league at Kettering Middle School. Largo High School was used exclusively by the club after 1984, except for the two years when, because of small numbers, it combined with Bowie wrestlers and established Bowie's beltway team at Bowie High School.

Tracing its roots back to the 1970's, it has been the foundation program for a large number of Maryland's most successful wrestlers. When Tom Hogan took over from Fred Smith as head coach in the early-1980's, he brought in two new assistant coaches, Criss Tooth, a former club member and Bruce Gabrielson, a former West Coast high school and college coach. Bruce had moved to this area from California in early 1984, and had started coaching the Kettering team the following fall. Bruce's son Jason was the smallest member of the Kettering's squad. The following spring (1985) Bruce established SMWC, mostley for older wrestlers at Calvert High School.

Tom soon moved on to other interests, leaving Criss and Bruce to run both the beltway level and junior league teams. About this time, Criss and Bruce recognized that in order to fully develop the potential of the many quality wrestlers in their program, additional higher level wrestling skills were needed. Like many other successful coaches, they subscribed to the philosophy that knowing only one style of wrestling limited the athletes ability to adjust to different competitive techniques at the national and international level. To correct the deficiencies in their own club, and to allow those athletes who dedicated themselves to wrestling the opportunity to continue in organized wrestling through the off season, SMWC was merged with Kettering and formally moved to Largo HS in the fall of 1986.

About the Current Program

Up until the 1989/90 Folkstyle season, the team was called Kettering Cougars in the winter months and SMWC in the spring. It now uses the SMWC name year around. From 1978 until 1991, the club entered regional Beltway and junior league competitions (as Kettering, Bowie, or SMWC), but with the development of several successful wrestlers, has since become too dominant to compete in league functions. Most members now compete with other seasonal folkstyle clubs, or with high school or college teams during their regular folkstyle seasons.

Current concentration is on young national caliber wrestlers during the winter, while still providing quality practice time and advanced level coaching support for high school and open wrestlers. There were 81 total members on our 1995/96 roster, with members split between kids (23), high school (37), open (15), and master (6) age wrestlers.

SMWC has long been considered a national contender, having won its first national club/team Freestyle title in 1984.

In 1995, the team successfully defended its 1994 national AAU GR title and set an all-time AAU team record by finishing first in Greco-Roman in Midgets, Cadets, Elite, and Espoir, plus placing high in the other G-R age divisions. In Freestyle, the team also finished first in Midget, Cadet, Elite, and in Espoir. Espoir, Cadet and Elite are high school and early college age wrestlers.

SMWC's Record 1995 Grand National Championship Team

When Southern Maryland Wrestling Club was established as an international style club, the original Kettering scholastic style team began to become more national rather then local in character. Not only did the team gain recognition as it began to travel to different areas for tournament competition, but wrestlers from these other areas began to join the club and show up for practice on a regular basis. Often attending practices are wrestlers from as far away as Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Western Maryland. Virginia is just down the street, so many members are Virginia wrestlers.

Many college wrestlers, area coaches, and officials are SMWC members. In addition, the sons of many area coaches and officials belong to and compete for SMWC. Among our current local college members are Kahlil Malik, Todd Beckerman, Robert Alexander, Mike Pecha, Mat Allman, Carl Colston, Mike and Marty Kusick, Aaron Chandler, Sean Stone, Tyrone Neal, and Royal Howard. Our most visible older wrestlers are 1992 Olympian Buddy Lee, former three time National Greco-Roman Champion Jim Howard, and all-time collegiate record holder Wade Hughes.

SMWC's 1992 Olympian & Coach Buddy Lee

Coaching Staff's Background

Current SMWC coaches include not only several local high school coaches, but also outstanding coaches of other open, junior, and college teams. Successful moves and organizational skills honed at weekly SMWC practices are regularly taught at many other wrestling practices throughout the region. Some of the skills developed at SMWC have also helped coaches, such as Thomas Stone's Joe Higgs, go on to develop their own successful wrestling programs. The SMWC active coaching staff includes Head Coach Bruce Gabrielson, Jim Howard, Wade Hughes, Mike Sola, Dave Boger Steve Arslanian, Eric Lewis, Randy Long, Buddy Lee, Andre' Prue, and Craig Herwig.

Head Coach Bruce Gabrielson, a Level I Freestyle official, is a long time wrestler and coach. Bruce wrestled his high school years in Oregon under Coach jim Smith before moving to Southern California for a successful college career, and then to Maryland in the early 1980s. While he seldom still competes, in 1994 he won the 180.5 lb class at the World Masters SOMBO Championship and placed 3rd in the overall pool at the AAU National Greco-Roman Masters in 1996. He was also the team coach for the US SOMBO Team which took the 1995 FIAS World Team Title in Montreal. A wrestler and former assistant coach at California State University, Long Beach, he also was captain and acting coach of the U.S. Army Team at Ft Ord for one year. He has been a high school coach for several teams, most recently for the Suitland Rams during their undefeated 1990/91 season, and for DeMatha HS during the 1993/94 season. He retired from high school coaching in 1994, but still helps local HS teams when he has time. He also helps with many youth league teams during the winter months, and is one of Maryland's USAW National Team coaches.

Coach "G" at Work

Jim Howard is a former three time Greco-Roman National Champion, an Olympic contender, and World Cup Runner-up. He placed 4th at the 1993 World Masters Freestyle Championships in Toronto. At 125 lbs, Jim works out with and actively coaches our smaller to mid-sized advanced wrestlers throughout the season. Coach Wade Hughes is one of the all-time wrestling greats, and a collegiate record holder from this area. Besides being a former National Freestyle Champion and NCAA All-American, he is also an active coach at Howard University. Wade works with wrestlers of all sizes at virtually every spring practice. Mike Sola is a former Pennsylvania wrestler who is currently head coach of Pennsylvania's talented Road Warriors Wrestling Club during the folkstyle season. He was also formally with Team Foxcatcher. Dave Boger is Head Coach of Pennsylvania's Lebanon Valley Wrestling Club in addition to being a long time SMWC coach. Both Dave and Mike actively coach our fall travelling team as well as most of our national championship teams. Steve Arslanian is SMWC's primary Assistant Coach. A former Maryland HS State Champion, Steve had a tremendous wrestling career at the University of Maryland. He currently coaches at Bowie HS during the regular season. Eric Lewis is a former successful Bowie wrestler and semi-professional wrestler. He has helped coach the team for ten years. Both Steve and Eric work primarily with our heavier wrestlers. Randy Long is a former Virginia Beltway League coach. Craig (Hurricane) Herwig, the USAW Maryland Kids Chairman, is a successful long time area wrestler who also assists with the Attackers beltway team at Old Mill HS during the winter months. Craig, who placed 2nd in the overall at the 1994 Masters AAU National Freestyle at unlimited, works with both our heavyweights and our young wrestlers. John Dodge is a successful junior league coach from UYC. Rick Jones is a former Virginia HS (Robinson Rams) coach. Both Bruce and Rick coach the Queen Anne youth team.

Other coaches who regularly practice with the club include youth league coaches from St Charles Bears, Clinton, and St Mary's, and the St Johns HS, McNamara HS, Bladensberg HS, Rosevelt HS, Laurel HS, and Northern HS head and assistant coaches.

The Kettering/SMWC Hall of Fame

The Kettering/SMWC Hall of Fame was established in 1988 to recognize those member wrestlers who have contributed to the success of our wrestling program, either through competitive victories, or through coaching and continued club support. Requirements for nomination to the Kettering Hall of Fame, in addition to being a past team member, are national or state HS placement, or a coaching assignment with any club after junior league.

For members who joined after the name change to SMWC, Hall of Fame nomination requirements were changed only slightly in order to reflect the broader nature of the club. Like the Kettering requirements, selection requires a commitment and level of excellence well beyond local league competition. To be nominated, junior (under 18) members normally must win national titles in at least two different styles, with championships occurring over two different years. High School senior wrestlers can earn nominations by winning multiple state or national prep titles in additional to national placements. Nominees should also have participated on a Challenge Cup team.

Seniors can receive nominations by either college or open competitive success, or through direct contributions to the club or sport such as coaching. Wrestlers or coaches must be members for at least two years to be eligible. Election currently requires the vote of two thirds of the available existing Hall of Fame membership, with a current maximum of only three new members inducted each year. Nominations for either past or current wrestlers are normally submitted by existing members in March or April. In 1996, Nebraska's newest recruit, Todd Beckerman, a high school national record holder and long time SMWC member (since his early junior league days) became our newest Hall-of-Fame members.

Kettering/Southern Maryland Wrestling Club Hall of Fame Members

Bruce Gabrielson*---Earl Norman*---Stanly Proctor*---Steve Arslanien---Criss Tooth*---Eric Lewis---Martino Seppi---Marty Fowler---Steve Thornley---Mark Mangrum*---Steve Chop*---Jeff Rosenburg*---Eric Norman---Scott Bergess---Jason Gabrielson*--- Steven Hoffer*---Carl Martin---Omar Malik---Kahlil Malik*---Jay Billy---Todd Walls---Kevin Gabrielson*---Marcus Foran*---Jim Howard*---Stan Hawkins---Jason Clendaniels*---Robert Alexander*-- -John Allman---Randy Grant---Aaron Brown---Norm Brown---Jim Smith---Joe Higgs---Craig Herwig---Jake Scott--Todd Beckerman*

*indicates national champion winner in any style

The Potomac Valley All-Star Challenge Cup

Since its inception, SMWC has been used as the primary base club to select the Maryland All-Star Team for the Potomac Valley Challenge Cup. This is a very prestigious club only early summer affair which in 1996 included many of the Mid-Atlantic regions best wrestlers. Although team selection is open to all Maryland wrestlers who compete in club events, actual selection usually requires a direct wrestle off among club members from various Freestyle clubs. SMWC had 15 wrestlers on the 1996 Maryland Team which won in high school and placed second in the junior weight group.

What Type of Training Do We Offer?

SMWC is one of the very few wrestling clubs in the Middle Atlantic Region that subscribes to the concept of overall style of attack, and actively teach an integration of the various styles at most every practice. During the fall and winter season, high level accelerated coaching, primarily in Folkstyle (scholastic), is provided by our staff. In the spring, coaching switches principally to freestyle, and Greco-Roman. During the late spring and summer all styles are practiced. Starting about mid- July, club concentration turns towards JUDO, with some SOMBO for those preparing for World Championship competitions. Between July and September regular wrestling practices are suspended in favor of attendance at one of two area JUDO clubs.

Several SMWC Schoolboy Members Competed on the 1992 US Sombo Team in England

Since SMWC is an all-star tournament club only, it does not compete in regular Folkstyle junior league competitions. Therefore, membership and/or participation in SMWC events does not conflict with or violate junior league rules or effect participation in junior league events. Junior age members can belong to SMWC and still belong to their local teams. Some members compete in both league and SMWC activities. SMWC does enter open team events, including the Maryland State Age/Weight Championships and the National AAU Club Championships. SMWC is the 1993-6 Maryland State MSWA Folkstyle Club Champion, placed 2nd to McDonnough at the 1996 East Coast Freestyle Club Championships (by 2 pts), and set an all-time win record at the 1995 AAU Grand Nationals Team Championships. No other Maryland club has matched SMWC's record at any time during the past twelve years.

There is seldom a conflict for high school wrestlers practicing with us or entering open tournaments. Open events can be selected based on availability. However, to prevent confusion for local high school coaches, SMWC does not hold practice or schedule high school age events during the Maryland high school season. Wrestlers can therefore attend SMWC practices until mid- November and then easily transition into their high school seasons.

During the folkstyle season, under age 16 wrestlers have many opportunities to participate in open tournaments and in their scheduled HS events. Those that do generally have about twice the number of matches they would otherwise have. In fact, many area high school coaches urge their wrestlers to participate in open tournaments as often as they can. However, according to the Maryland Athletic Handbook, high school varsity wrestlers can only enter open tournaments so long as these tournaments do not interfere with their regularly scheduled in-season events. The varsity wrestler limitation regarding number of matches only applies to high school sanctioned competitions, not open folkstyle tournament matches or any freestyle events.

What Other Services Do We Offer?

In addition to direct advanced training and coaching in all wrestling styles, team members enjoy some unique benefits difficult to find in many other wrestling clubs. Some of these benefits are listed below.

1. Since the club is a formal non-profit organization, members can solicit tax deductible donations to help defray costs associated with their attendance at major events. In addition, the club actively seeks corporate sponsorship each year, with sponsors receiving considerable media attention. Any remaining sponsorship funds at the end of the season are distributed to those who travel with the club to national championship team events. The only stipulation to receiving club sponsorship (when available) is that wrestlers must be active members who practice with the team on a regular basis each year. Many active members have received funding in this manner.

2. Through an exclusive arrangement with Mirror Image Photography, club members receive action photos of their matches, usually at no cost. Discounts are available for those wanting enlargements of action or team photos. Several of our members have had their pictures show up in national wrestling publications as a result of Mirror Image's efforts.

SMWC's Kevin Gabrielson Winning the 1995 AAU Grand Nationals

3. SMWC enters a team or has members entered at most major national level junior age or all age events. Transportation to major events, and many other more local events is usually available on a cost sharing basis to members. The club has access to multi-passenger vans for members traveling as a group to distant national events.

4. SMWC is a "main line" wrestling club in that it keeps current on all local, regional, and national activities. There is seldom a wrestling publication members don't see or an event that isn't advertised to club members. SMWC is also one of the few major clubs that is both USAW and AAU sanctioned.

SMWC's Own 1995 Version of Friends and Family

5. Special clinics and guest presenters are a common event at club practice activities. Past clinics have been presented by many prominent wrestling figures. Among those who have presented recent clinics include several national champions, regional college and Olympic level competitors, and coaches who happen to be in the D.C. area. These clinics help wrestlers observe a variety of wrestling styles and techniques. During our 1995/96 season, clinics have been presented in Folkstyle, Freestyle, Greco-Roman, and SOMBO, plus a freestyle referee training clinic was held. Recent presenters included NCAA All-American and Athletes-in-Action star Don Shuler, a throwing, technique, and jump-rope clinic by SMWC's Olympian Buddy Lee, a freestyle and motivation clinic by Wade Schalles, an "advanced basics" clinic by SMWC's Wade Hughes, a Greco-Roman throwing clinic by SMWC's Jim Howard, and a power takedown and technique clinic by American University Coach Jim Akerly, and a technique clinic by NCAA Runner-up Troy Sunderland. Few clubs in the nation can claim such a diversity of talent providing clinics on a regular basis to its membership. Our practices sometimes look like clinics.

6. We have a close relationship with large wrestling equipment manufacturers and retail outlets, especially at Mat Corner in Woodbridge, VA. Team uniforms are purchased through Mat Corner, which has also used our team members in its advertising.

7. Finding practice partners of quality is a difficult task, especially when trying to prepare for national level competition. With an abundance of top notch talent from little wrestlers to heavy weights, SMWC members have plenty of workout partners. Among the spring 1995/6 practicing members include Jason and Kevin Gabrielson, Nick Alley, Frank Glover, Victor King, Warren Thompson, Todd Beckerman, Quinn Foster, Robert Alexander, Mike Toro, Rudie Rudea, Chris Rodregues, Bryan Long, Tyrone Neal, Ryan and Aaron Herwig, Matt and Mike Pecha, Billy Phillips, Aaron Chandler, Eric Miller, Derik and Evan Sola, Mike Waite, Basil (Doby) Dobbins, and many of our other Hall-of-Fame members. Check the national rankings and see for yourself how many active club member names show up. At many practices in the spring we had Foster, Beckerman, Phillips and Gabrielson working with Wade Hughes, Jim Howard, and other locals. Sound like a high class practice?

8. SMWC members are invited to our invitation only Pre-National Training Camp each spring. This free intensive training camp helps our wrestlers to prepare with others of similar ability for national competition. Besides our own club coaches, we usually invite top notch talent from other clubs, plus a host of widely respected clinicians to present sessions.

9. SMWC members and coaches are regularly asked to conduct sessions, coach, or to participate as a team at various summer wrestling camps. Members who enroll in the camps often do so as guests or at greatly reduced rates. This is one of the ways we receive considerable off-season attention and training for our membership.

10. Spring club matches and other similar special events are scheduled regularly. Practices are normally set-up such that wrestlers can attend one night per week regardless of other spring sport involvement. We have a close relationship with many other regional freestyle clubs, plus we are one of the very few regional teams targeted for matches by all-star touring teams who travel through this area.

11. SMWC actively recruits and promotes very advanced and talented small wrestlers to develop into top competitors. The majority of entry level junior league teams in this area teach and drill basic skills into their beginning level wrestlers at the group level. SMWC teaches these skills at an advanced pace with concentration at the individual level. For practice, especially during large spring sessions, a separate coach is usually available to directly work with a small group of the younger wrestlers. In this manner, we have successfully been able to develop some outstanding young talent in a very short time.

12. SMWC publishes and distributes to dues paying members an area newsletter, the Capital Area Wrestling News plus also sends out an extensive tournament schedule. The newsletter has articles and information about local events, plus information about summer camps, local wrestlers and how they are doing in college, etc. The tournament schedule is first published in early October, with updates about every 5 weeks until May. Usually two or three tournaments are listed for each weekend, plus entry information, age groups, contacts, where SMWC will enter as a team, and other notes.

13. SMWC has visibility world wide for its members and activities over the Internet. Located at SMWC's web site is visited daily by many coaches, recruiters, wrestlers, and fans. Members receive considerable publicity and name recognition, plus can use our server to advertise their services, such as photography (Mirror Image), camps (Wade Schalles), jump ropes (Buddy Lee's Jump Aerobics), and the US Sombo Association. Members can also be contacted through this valuable service, particularly those with email addresses. Many high school seniors and juniors also have their profiles listed for college scouts. SMWC's web site was put on-line in 1994, the first wrestling web site, and officially linked to InterMat in 1995. In 1996, SMWC received Wrestling USA's "Best Internet Wrestling Publication" Award.

14. SMWC is considered the formal training site in Southern Maryland for Maryland's USAW Junior and Cadet National Teams. Many SMWC members compete on the Maryland USAW Team at national championship events, as well as at AAU Grand National and Junior Olympic events. Coach Gabrielson was a 1995 Maryland Cadet Team Coach, but due to an event conflict with our many younger members, coached kids at the AAU national events in 1996.

15. Late season practices are a major draw for our club. With most programs winding down by spring, SMWC practices continue to draw large numbers of serious wrestlers until mid-July when we close for national events. Practice starts up again in early September.

16. Officials training is something seldom available at the club level. SMWC regularly provides grass roots training for members who wish to become freestyle and Greco-Roman officials or pairers. At least two formal training clinics are provided each spring, plus new officials are scheduled at local events where they can practice under experienced club member officials.

17. Local tournaments just don't happen on their own. One of the greatest advantages of belonging to a large organization supported by many area coaches is the opportunity to host a series of tournaments at different locations while drawing on the experienced resources of club members to provide officials, pairers, direction, and equipment. In this regard, SMWC is the only fully self supporting club in this region capable of hosting a schedule of regular competitions for local wrestlers.

How Can a New Wrestler Join?

The question is often asked about who can participate and also how a new wrestler can join SMWC. Anyone can work out with the club once in a while but becoming a full member requires active involvement. What a potential new wrestler needs to do is simple. Basically, talk to a current member or coach, and then show up to practice. If we didn't know you before then, we soon will. Remember, you don't need to be a successful champion to join, but you do need the desire to eventually become one. All it takes is personal drive plus be willing to put in the time necessary. One piece of advice is don't come to our practice thinking you can pound everyone. Even National Champions and NCAA All-Americans have a hard time here.

For beginners, we suggest the Southern Maryland Junior Wrestling League or one of the beltway level teams as good entry level organizations to start at before joining an advance club such as SMWC. Wrestlers competing in high school can show up and join at any practice. To become the top wrestler at your weight for the competition team requires a formal wrestle-off.

Active membership fees are required (usually about $25) plus AAU or USAW cards are required for insurance. Those who join can purchase the club T-shirt when available. Once you make the competition team, regular dues are no longer required unless you practice with us most of the time, you want partial sponsorship, or you want to remain on our active mailing list. Competition members only need their AAU or USAW card for insurance to practice with us on an occasional basis. This includes practicing at the coach's home or at specially set-up locations during bad weather or school closings.

Active dues paying members also receive regular tournament schedules and other announcements throughout the year, including the Capital Area Wrestling News during the spring. Once you are accepted for full membership, you remain a member on our roster unless you notify us otherwise. Hall-of-Fame members are members for life with no dues requirement.

Where Do Our Members Come From?

Our members are advanced wrestlers representing a great many schools and programs in both Maryland and the entire Mid-Atlantic region. Remember that Maryland is a small state with other states in close proximity. Although most members live in Calvert, Charles, Ann Arrundel, or PG County, SMWC is in reality a regional team in that some members drive from as far away as Reading, Pennsylvania, to attend practices or matches. You do not need to live in the area to be a member or wrestle in regular team tournaments and other local events with us.

Practices often vary, but currently we practice on Tuesday and Thursday nights between 7:30 pm and 9:00 pm. Our facility is easily the largest in Maryland. Bishop McNamara HS provides us their gym and up to four mats as needed. During the spring our mats are kept along the sides of the gym and additional sections are rolled out when practices get large.

In Summary

We hope this booklet has answered your questions about SMWC membership, its history, traditions, and its talent. As a final comment, if you are a coach and want to learn something new, we need you and you can help us learn as well. All SMWC coaches either conduct sessions or actively coach every practice. If you are a small wrestler and would like to become a national contender someday, you really need to go wherever the quality competition and a variety of talent is located. If you are a high school age wrestler looking for a scholarship, you will have a much better chance with us then on your own. With college coaches, both local and outside the area, contacting us year around, this could be your opportunity to "make your mark" on the school you want. It has happened to our members many times over the years. Success is up to you.

Another SMWC Member Takes That Lone Walk to Glory

The sacrifice on your part is simply showing up to seriously work, the sacrifice on ours is the training and work it takes to make you successful. You must realize that it's very difficult to achieve your goals if you aren't willing to make the personal sacrifices required, including committing yourself to your objective. Dan Gable, former Olympic Champion once said "To push one's body to the limit of endurance and beyond, to deny one's self of normal pleasures while all around others are enjoying those pleasures, to persevere under grueling competition is, to me, a rare act of courage." We at SMWC subscribe to these same ideals. To answer any further questions you might have, please call coach Bruce Gabrielson at 301-855-4565 (local DC call) any evening.