Southern Maryland Wrestling Club Information Sheet and History
About Our Team
SMWC was founded by Bruce Gabrielson, current head coach, and Criss Tooth, former Kettering Boys Club coach and wrestler, in late 1984. Chris and Bruce were coaching the highly talented Kettering Boys and Girls Club Wrestling Team at the time, and recognized that in order to fully develop the potential of the many quality wrestlers in their program, additional higher level wrestling skills were necessary. Like many other 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 established in the fall of 1983.
When Southern Maryland Wrestling Club was established as an AAU international style team, 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 team and show up for practice on a regular basis. Often attending practices are wrestlers from as far away as southern Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Western Maryland.
Among our current membership are William and Mary star Kahlil Malik, American University star, Jake Scott, and Morgan State star Kwabini Asamoah. Our most visible open wrestler is former three time National Champion and World Cup runner-up Jim Howard. Jim, who was also a three time U.S. World Team member, works out with and actively coaches our juniors and Challenge Cup team year around.
Head Coach's Background
Bruce Gabrielson is the Head Coach of SMWC. He was not only a successful wrestler during his high school and college career, but also competed in open competition for many years after college. He has been an active coach for a number of teams since 1968.
Bruce has won several AAU national masters titles in various wrestling styles, had a 64-6 college dual meet record, and was also a successful high school and college coach prior to founding SMWC. He was the assistant coach at California State University, Long Beach for two years, and captain and coach of the U.S. Army team 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.
The current SMWC coaching staff includes not only several local high school coaches, but also outstanding coaches of other teams, both local, and outside the immediate area. Successful moves and organizational skills learned at weekly SMWC practices are therefore taught at many other wrestling practices throughout the region. Some of the skills learned at SMWC have also helped coaches go on to develop their own successful wrestling programs. The current coaching staff includes Jim Smith, Jim Howard, Mike Sola, Steve Arslanian and Eric Lewis.
About the Team
The team operates as primarily an open tournament club throughout the year. Up until the 1989/90 Folkstyle season, the team was called Kettering Cougars in the winter months, but now uses the SMWC name all year around. Until 1991, the club entered regional Beltway league competitions, but with the development of a number of successful wrestlers, has since become too dominant to compete in most leagues functions. We now concentrate on young national caliber wrestlers during the winter, while still providing quality practice time and high level coaching support for high school and open wrestlers. There were 71 members on our 1991 roster, about an even split between high school and pre-high school ages.
Southern Maryland Wrestling Club has long been considered a national contender, having won its first national team title nearly 7 years ago. In 1991, the team successfully defended its 1990 national title and set an all-time AAU team record by finishing first in Greco-Roman in Bantams, Elite, and Espoir, plus placing high in the other divisions. In Freestyle, the team also finished first in Bantams, Elite, and in Espoir. Espoir and Elite are high school and early college age wrestlers. Our team placement at the AAU Grand Nationals is usually very high, but also greatly depends on the number of members that can attend the tournament. In 1993 the Grand Nationals will be held in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the closest it has ever been to our area.
The Kettering and SMWC Hall of Fame
The Kettering Hall of Fame and the SMWC Hall of Fame were 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 this club or any other club after junior league competition years.
Kettering Hall of Fame
Randy Grant Mark Mangrum Stanly Proctor Aaron Brown Norm Brown Marty Fowler Eric Norman Criss Tooth John Allman Todd Walls Martino Seppi Scott Bergess Kahlil Malik
The SMWC Hall of Fame, like the Kettering Hall of Fame, 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. Some outstanding junior (HS) age national prep school champions have also received nominations. Seniors can receive nominations by either competitive success, or through direct contributions 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 both the Kettering and the SMWC Hall of Fame are normally submitted by existing members in March or April.
Southern Maryland Wrestling Club Hall of Fame Members
Bruce Gabrielson* Earl Norman* Stan Proctor* Steve Arslanien* Criss Tooth* Randy Grant Marty Fowler Steve Thornley Mark Mangrum* Steve Chop* Jeff Rosenburg* Eric Norman Jason Gabrielson* Steven Hoffer* Carl Martin Omar Malik Kahlil Malik* Jay Billy Kevin Gabrielson* Marcus Foran* Jim Howard* Stan Hawkins Jason Clendaniels* Robert Alexander*
*indicates national champion
The Potomac Valley All-Star Challenge Cup
For the past nine years, 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 1992 included all-star teams from Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. 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 14 wrestlers on the 1992 Maryland team which placed first in juniors and fourth in high school.
What Type of Training Do We Offer?
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, Greco-Roman, and SOMBO. During the summer, 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. Many club members also enter JUDO competitions during this time. In 1991, SMWC Hall-of-Fame member Robert Alexander won the US Championships in JUDO.
We are one of the very few year around wrestling clubs in the Middle Atlantic Region that subscribes to the concept of overall style of attack, and actively teach the various styles at most every practice.
Since SMWC is a tournament team, it does not support local Folkstyle league competitions. However, some members compete in both leagues and club activities. The team does support and compete in open team events, including the Maryland State Age/Weight Championships and Club Championships. All place finishers at this event automatically advance to one of the four MAWA Regional Championships and from there, if successful, to the Eastern National Folkstyle Championships. SMWC placed second to Northwest at the 1992 event. The 1993 Grand National Folkstyle Championships will be held in Demoine, Iowa.
There is seldom a conflict for high school wrestlers between practicing with or entering tournaments in our program since matches can be scheduled based on availability. However, to prevent confusion, we do not schedule high school age events during the Maryland high school season. Wrestlers can therefore attend all their high school matches and practice on a regular basis while still practicing with us.
Wrestlers who participate with SMWC's in open tournaments generally have about three times the number of matches they would otherwise have with their high school or league team. 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 regular season. 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 non-profit organization, members often 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 regularly receiving considerable media attention as members do well in competition. Any remaining sponsorship funds at the end of the season are distributed to those who travel with the team to the AAU Grand Nationals. The only stipulation to receiving club sponsorship when funds are available is that wrestlers must be active members who practice and participate with the team on a regular basis.
2. Through an exclusive arrangement with Mirror Image Photography, the same company that photographs many major and national wrestling events, 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.
3. SMWC enters a team or has members entered at most major national level 18 and under events. Transportation to these 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.
5. Special clinics and guest presenters are a common event for club practice activities. Past clinics have included Freestyle and Greco-Roman referee training, SOMBO presentations, guest clinics by national champions and regional college and Olympic level competitors or coaches, and several sessions by recognized coaches who happen to be in the D.C. area. This practice helps wrestlers observe a variety of wrestling styles and techniques. During our 1991/92 season, special guest clinics were presented in Folkstyle, Freestyle, Greco-Roman, and SOMBO.
6. Like some other clubs, we have a close relationship with large wrestling equipment manufacturers and retail outlets, especially at Mat Corner in Woodbridge, VA. Team members often receive discounts on wrestling equipment and materials from these manufacturers. Team uniforms are purchased through Mat Corner. Mat Corner has also used our team members in its advertising.
7. Finding practice partners of quality is a difficult task when trying to prepare for national level competition. With an abundance of top notch talent in the 115 lb and under weight classes, smaller SMWC members have plenty of workout partners. Also, they can participate in the exclusive invitation only Pre-National Training Camp each June. This allows our smaller wrestlers to prepare with others of similar level and ability for national competition in a closed environment. Our club usually combines with sister clubs Lebanon Valley, Road Warriors, and Central Jersey for this camp.
8. SMWC and its coaching staff are often asked to conduct sessions, coach, or to participate as a team to support 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 team 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. 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 assigned 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.
How Can a New Wrestler Join?
The question is often asked about who can participate and also how a new wrestler can join SMWC. What a new wrestler needs to do is simple. Basically, any advanced wrestler with a strong desire to greatly improve their ability can join the team, provided they are also willing to put in the time it takes. For beginners, the Southern Maryland Junior Wrestling League is one of several good entry level leagues and also a good place for the older juniors to start at before joining an advance club such as SMWC. Wrestlers competing in high school must be selected for membership based on their record, past membership, and a tryout. Young wrestlers can participate without a tryout, but still must be asked to join for full membership. Even with limited experience, young wrestlers should always try to work during their off-season on a regular basis with an advanced club if they have the opportunity.
Membership fees are $25 per calendar year. All members receive an AAU card for insurance as part of their membership. Those who join during the fall also receive a free club T-shirt. After January 1st, T-shirts are $5 each. SMWC requires all members to purchase their own uniform, a freestyle singlet which runs about $14. The hooded sweatshirt warm-ups are nice extras and cost about $17 currently. Our T-shirt is a hot item to trade at national championship events, so members often buy several extra for additional use. Coach's shirts are $12.50.
Where Do Our Members Come From?
SMWC is a regional team in that some members drive from as far away as Pennsylvania to attend regular practices. You do not need to live in the area to wrestle with us. Practices are Monday and Wednesday (sometimes Friday also) between 7:00 pm and 8:30 pm at Largo High School. Large H.S. is located adjacent to P.G. Community College on Rt 202, just south of the Capital Center. Northern Virginia wrestlers generally can get to our practices in less then 30 minutes. Hagerstown wrestlers require about 1 1/4 hours, while Pennsylvania wrestlers take from one to two hours to reach us. You could drive farther then this to a tournament, and still not get the same level of competition.
Between mid-October and April, the club competes in practice matches and/or attends a tournament nearly every weekend. During the spring and summer we also compete as a team, but our schedule slows down considerably.
Wrestlers on the winter Folkstyle team automatically phase into the spring Freestyle team. Generally, most kids are involved with other sports during the spring and early summer, so they need only attend tournaments or practices in the evening when they can make it. Spring all age practices are large, most are very intensive, and they often draw wrestlers from many areas.
Several area high school coaches have found these spring practices the perfect opportunity to not only continue programs for their team members during the off season, but also expose themselves to other coaching techniques and moves. In addition, since very few coaches can attract enough of their own wrestlers off-season to practice effectively, the total group attending a spring SMWC's practice creates the critical mass most wrestlers need. With prestigious practice partners, outside high level coaching, plus no school coaching pressure, high school athletes and coaches are able to greatly enhance their wrestling skills in a very short time. Area high school coaches who regularly attended practices last spring included Oxen Hill, Bladensberg, DeMatha, and MacNamara.
We hope this booklet has answered your questions about SMWC membership, its 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 to where the quality competition is. If you are a high school age wrestler looking for a scholarship, you will have a 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.
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 you might not be able to achieve your goals if you aren't willing to make the personal sacrifices required, including committing yourself to your objective. Dan Gable, former junior league wrestler and 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, and strongly feel that this is what becoming a champion is all about. To answer any further questions you might have, please call the head coach, Bruce Gabrielson, during the day at 202-767-2221, or at 301-855-4565 (local DC call) any evening.