Information - History - Traditions
This document provides general information about Maryland's most
successful and nationally recognized wrestling club, Southern
Maryland Wrestling Club. The Prince Georges County based club is the
winner of eighteen Grand National Club
Championships and many state and regional titles.
The club is well respected
among regional high schools and colleges, is the primary source for
college coaches to do recruiting in Maryland, and features a number
of national champions plus two Olympians 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 in Upper Marlboro.
Two youth teams
were maintained by Kettering, one beltway level practicing at
Largo High School, and one junior league at Kettering Middle
School. During the off-season, many club members and high school
wrestlers continued practicing with the middle school club.
Ketttering MS needed the space so
Largo High School was used exclusively by the club after
1984. Kettering B&G Club didn't promote youth wrestling, so, for two years
because of small numbers, the youth club
combined with Bowie wrestlers and established Bowie's beltway
team at Bowie High School.
The post season wrestlers moved practices to Bowie HS during those
years and continued for a year afterwards.
Tracing its roots back to the 1970's, Kettering/Bowie/SMWC
has been the foundation
program for a large number of Southern Maryland's and PG County's
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 Toth, a former club member and Bruce Gabrielson,
a former West Coast high school and college coach.
Bruce's son Jason was the smallest member of
The name SMWC actually came from a freestyle club.
In the spring of 1983, Bruce established SMWC,
a freestyle team mostley for older wrestlers at
Calvert High School. Practicing on different nights than Kettering,
the team drew wrestlers from Kettering as
well as from PG and Calvert County.
However, Calvert County Parks & Rec.
at the time didn't want to support wrestling,
so the team only practiced there one spring.
Before long, Tom Hogan moved on to other interests, leaving Criss and Bruce to
run both the beltway level and junior league teams during the winter months.
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's off season
practices into a single program.
About the Current Program
The club originally existed as a youth league team and an off-season
Up until the 1989/90 Folkstyle season, the youth team was called
Kettering Cougars in the winter months and SMWC in the spring and fall.
The youth league team has been called many other names, usually named
sponsored it during the season. The all-age club now uses the SMWC
name year around with the youth league club called the SMWC All-Stars.
Between 1991 and 1996, the club was too dominant to compete in youth
league functions. During those years it continued regular season
only competed as a travelling team that
entered team and open tournament competitions.
However, with the emergence of Golden Ring as a recognized Northern
Maryland youth league powerhouse, SMWC again sponsored a youth team and
entered league competitions
beginning in 1996. The current youth league team, the SMWC
All-Stars, operates as a separate program
from the main club during
the winter season.
1998/99 SMWC All-Stars
Youth concentration for our winter and spring open
club practices is on developing young national
caliber wrestlers, while still providing
quality practice time and advanced level coaching support for
our high school and open wrestlers. There were over 84 members on
our 1999 roster, with membership split evenly between kids and high
SMWC has long been considered a national contender, having won
its first national club/team Freestyle title in 1986.
In 1995, the team
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
SMWC's Record 1995 AAU 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 worry when SMWC members
showed up in their brackets. Often SMWC members were seated
first at a tournament simply because of their affiliation.
A large number of 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 many current
college wrestlers are
Tom Cass, Eric Miller, Quinn Foster, Sidney Billups, Chris Lafebvre,
Todd Beckerman, Premeille Pettaway,
Marty Kusick, Sean Stone, Tyrone Neal,
Brandyn and Ivan Hardnett, Matt Pecha, Billy Phillips,
John Jackson and EJ Sauls.
SMWC's 1992 Olympian & Coach Buddy Lee
Current SMWC members include not only several local high school
coaches, but also outstanding coaches of other open, junior, and college
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 members who became coaches,
such as Thomas Stone's Joe Higgs and Westlake's Marty Margolis, go on to
develop their own successful wrestling programs. The SMWC
active coaching staff includes Head Coach
Howard, Wade Hughes,
and Craig Herwig.
Patron coaches include
Jim Akerly, Kendall Cross, and
Head Coach Jason Gabrielson, a Level II Freestyle official, is a
long time SMWC wrestler Jason was a 3x high school state champion and a member of the USAW
Dream Team before
moving to Edinboro University for a successful college and open career.
He finished 7th in the 1996 US Freestyle Olympic Trials while in high school.
Coach Jason vs. Ed Geise - 1996 Final Freestyle Olympic Trials
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.
Rick Jones is a former Virginia HS
(Robinson Rams) coach. Rick who wrestled at Iowa State, also coaches our
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.
In addition to competition goals, this
"Above and Beyond the Call of Duty" recognition
is the ultimate final goal
of all SMWC members.
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
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.
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
Kettering/Southern Maryland Wrestling Club Hall of Fame Members
Bruce Gabrielson*---Earl Norman*---Stanly Proctor*---Steve
Arslanien---Criss Toth*---Eric Lewis---Martino Seppi---Marty
Fowler---Steve Thornley---Mark Mangrum*---Steve Chop*---Jeff
Rosenberg*---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*--
Wade Hughes*--Anthony "Budy" Lee*---Andre' Prue*---Troy Sunderland*---Rick
Jones---Willie Harris*---Chris Rodrigues*---Ryan Herwig*
*indicates national champion winner in any style
SMWC's 1999 Hall-of-Fame Inductee
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 annually includes 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 21 wrestlers on the 1999 Maryland and
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, high level
accelerated coaching, primarily in Folkstyle (scholastic), is
provided by our staff. When we start up in the spring, coaching switches
principally to freestyle, and Greco-Roman. During the late
spring and summer all styles are practiced.
Several SMWC Schoolboy Members Competed on the 1992
US Sombo Team in England
Beckerman, Rusak, Gabrielson, Alexander
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.
However the full SMWC team only
enters open team events such as
the Maryland State Age/Weight Championships.
SMWC is the 1993-2000 Maryland
State MSWA Folkstyle Club Champion, and
the 1999 East Coast Freestyle Club Champion.
No other Maryland club has matched
SMWC's record at any time during the past 15 years.
There are also no conflicts for high school wrestlers practicing
with us or entering open tournaments during the off season.
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
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 tax exempt youth
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. Because
several members are active in photography, club members
often receive action photos of their matches,
usually at no cost.
SMWC Wrestler Winning the 1999 East Coast Club Championships
- 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.
- 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.
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. 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.
- 7. SMWC often hosts a specialized
only 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
- 8. 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
- 9. 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.
- 10. 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 during their winter league season.
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
- 11. SMWC maintains a current news page on its Internet site.
The news contains
articles and information about local events, plus information
about summer camps, local wrestlers and how they are doing in
- 12. SMWC has visibility world wide for its members and
activities over the Internet. Located at
http://126.96.36.199/ses/wrest/ SMWC's web site
daily by many coaches, recruiters, wrestlers, and fans. Members
receive considerable publicity and name recognition, plus can use
our server to advertise their own programs for free.
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
- 13. 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 throughout the summer.
- 14. 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.
- 15. 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 provided you have an insurance card,
but becoming a full member requires
the payment of dues. Although everyone is a volunteer, our club
does have expenses.
What a potential new wrestler needs to do is simple,
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 in the spring.
To become the top wrestler at your weight for the
competition team requires a formal wrestle-off.
When touring teams come through this area they usually have only
one wrestler per weight. Therefore, only our top wrestler gets
the chance to compete in these matches or in team events.
Active membership fees are usually around $30
plus AAU or USAW cards are required for
insurance. Those who join can purchase the club T-shirt
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 represent a great many
schools and programs in both Maryland and Northern
Virginia. Remember that Maryland is a small state with other states in
close proximity. Although most members live in
SMWC is in reality a Southern Maryland regional team
drawing from the surrounding area as well. 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.
Current practices are held two nights per week at Gwynn Park HS.
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.
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 Jason Gabrielson at
301-855-4565 (local DC call) any evening.
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