Sports

Area’s top wrestlers head to Gate City Club

Thursday, January 24, 2013

By GARY FITZ

Staff Writer

The Hollis Brookline wrestling team won a Division II title last winter and will challenge for the title again. The high school programs at Alvirne and Merrimack continue to get better.

Nashua North has four or five wrestlers at or near the top of their weight class in Division I. Bishop Guertin and Nashua South have wrestlers who should make noise in next month’s state tournament.

What do most of the top wrestlers on area teams have in common? Many participate in the continually expanding Gate City Wrestling Club.

To keep pace with the competition in any sport, you can’t limit your training to the high school season. And Gate City, still relatively new, is growing in reputation.

“The off-season wrestling programs makes you,” said Alvirne sophomore standout Evan Manning, who began his off-season program as a seventh grader at Nashua’s Boys and Girls Club program. “You make friends with kids from other schools and we all make each other better.”

When Brian Bumpus was a student and state champion at Hollis Brookline, he went to Lowell for an off-season program. When he took over as coach at Hollis Brookline he started his own.

But the availability of the Gate City program gave Bumpus a chance to send his best wrestlers there.

“You look at Timberlane’s success, at Concord, and you see kids who wrestle year round,” Bumpus said. “You look at Pennsylvania and its 12 months a year, seven days a week.

“You spend that much time on the mat it’s going to make you better.”

Former 1970s era Nashua wrestling standout Kris Rowlette, whose son Jordan wrestles at Bishop Guertin, oversees the Nashua program, with plenty of logistical help from Joe Laplante.

“One thing we strive to do is to keep it affordable,” Rowlette said. “We don’t exclude anyone.”

For Rowlette it started with the Boys and Girls Club program six or seven years ago and expanded to Gate City, which consists of three hours a week in the off-season and an in-season, one-hour scull session for a limited number of wrestlers.

Rowlette, a federal law enforcement agent, was a multiple state champion and New England champ before wrestling at Division I level in college.

“I see kids come back in the fall who have wrestled in the off-season and see a huge difference,” Alvirne coach Tom Jackson said. “That improvement encourages other wrestlers to get involved.

“To be honest, I don’t know where we’d be without it.”

Bishop Guertin coach Paul Rousseau, like Rowlette, wrestled for Nashua coaching legend Paul Bellavance in the 1970s.

“Our motto at the time was ‘We Pay the Price,’” Rousseau said. “That means putting in the extra time.

“The kids who come to Gate City are the ones who love it and want to be champions. Kris Rowlette was a champion and knows what it takes.”

Rousseau characterizes Rowlette as a patient coach who volunteers his time to make everyone in the program better.

“He’s been the biggest influence on me,” said Nashua North junior Peter Daniels. “He teaches us basic moves that have been around since he wrestled, but are still very effective.”

A number of area varsity coaches, including Jackson, Bumpus, Rousseau, Merrimack’s Tim McMahon and Nashua South’s Adam Langlois help out when the can.

Coaches from outside the area, like Matt Smith from Smitty’s Barn in Plaistow and Mike Marshall from the Doughboy Club in Lowell, are brought in to conduct clinics.

There are about 60 kids involved, 35 of whom show up on a regular basis. They include area wrestlers, wrestlers from nearby schools like Pinkerton Academy and Salem, and one who travels to practices from Bellow Falls, Vt.

The club enters half a dozen off-season tournaments in New England and New York and hosts its own in late June.

“The club is invaluable,” says Fred Daniels, the father of Peter Daniels who helps with fund raising efforts. “You look at any sport and the best players participate in an off-season program.

“What’s different about Gate City is how affordable it is, basically just a price of a Boys and Girls Club membership.”

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