Information - History - Traditions

1999/2000 Season

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 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 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 Kettering's squad.

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 freestyle/folkstyle club. 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 for whoever 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 practices but 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 school ages.

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 wrestlers.

SMWC's Dream Team

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 Abassador

SMWC's 1992 Olympian & Coach Buddy Lee

Coaching Staff's Background

Current SMWC members 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 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 Jason Gabrielson, Jim Howard, Wade Hughes, Mike Sola, Rick Jones, Buddy Lee, Steve Arslanian Rob Pribish, and Craig Herwig. Patron coaches include Jim Akerly, Kendall Cross, and Troy Sunderland.

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 SMWC All-Stars youth team.

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. 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 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.

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.

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
Chris Rodrigues

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 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 Virginia Teams.

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.

SMWC Members on Tour

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 seasons.

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 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. Because several members are active in photography, club members often receive action photos of their matches, usually at no cost.

SMWC Wrestler in
East Coast Club Finals

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 no-cost invitation 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 present sessions.

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 membership.

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 time.

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 college, etc.

12. SMWC has visibility world wide for its members and activities over the Internet. Located at http://206.102.92.130/ses/wrest/ 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 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 Publication" Award.

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 when available.

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 PG County, 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.

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. 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.

Glory Walk

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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