By Andrew Wroblewski
For Elwood’s Blue Wave youth wrestling program, the word “team” describes more than just the boys who suit up and take to the wrestling mats sporting the Blue Wave name at tournaments all over the Northeast. During practices, parents double as coaches, older siblings do the same, and alumni or friends of the program often make appearances to help out the up-and-comers. When Head Coach Thomas Giaramita built Blue Wave wrestling in 1999, he started more than just a team, he started a family; a family set on the goal of building an Elwood wrestling dynasty.
“When we started we had only about 25-30 kids join up,” Giaramita, an Elwood resident, said. “From there, we kept expanding and now when we have about 90 kids in the program. We really decided to try and make an imprint on Elwood wrestling, to feed John Glenn High School, and since 2006 the school has been one of the top teams in Suffolk County while being the smallest school in Division I.”
Since then, the high school has spawned three state champions this decade – two of which came up through the Blue Wave wrestling progam and have since gone on to wrestling at the college level.
Nick Meinsen, state champion in 2010 at 130 pounds, went from Blue Wave to Knight to Bearcat when he wrestled for Binghamton University.
James Dekrone, a state champion for John Glenn in 2012 at 138 pounds, took a similar path as he rose through the Blue Wave ranks to later become a Mountaineer at West Virginia University where he is currently enrolled and wrestling.
One of Giaramita’s sons, Joe Giaramita – the one who inspired him to create Blue Wave in the first place – also made his way up through the John Glenn ranks and now wrestles for SUNY Cortland where he’s been a two-time All-American.
“That’s the goal – feeding the high school – and John Glenn has definitely reaped the rewards of the Blue Wave program,” Giaramita said. “This year, the high school team is ranked no. 1 in Division I and the middle school team has done well, too.”
As one of the only youth wrestling programs the Huntington Township has to offer, Blue Wave focuses on bringing in wrestlers from Elwood and its surrounding towns like Harborfields, Northport and Huntington. There are three teams – red, white and blue – separated by age group; white is the youngest, blue the oldest. Kids from grades 1-8 are welcome to join up and practice year-round, while competing from November-March in a schedule mimicking that of the high school level.
Along with Giaramita, the Blue Wave wrestlers are coached by Anthony Foresto and Mike Meehan, who head up the red and white teams, respectively. Giaramita also made mention of Tim Hawkrigg, a phenomenal help to the program, and Joseph Fusaro, president of the Elwood Board of Education, who was fundamental on the administrative side in organizing Blue Wave wrestling and implementing it into the district.
Now in its 15th season, while the program has grown and aged, the goals still remain the same for the 2014-2015 season, the Blue Wave founder said.
“As always, we’re looking to improve on the previous year,” Giaramita said. “Our goal is to have as many boys win as possible and finish strong at the end of the season.”
Giaramita and the rest of the Blue Wave program have implemented an end-of-season tournament to do just that, so there is a goal for the boys to work towards. That tournament is scheduled to kick off on Feb. 8, he said.
Before that, though, the boys traveled to Bristol, Conn. last weekend to compete in the Bristol Gladiator Holiday Wrestling Tournament on Dec. 21. More than 30 Blue Wave wrestlers competed in the tournament and several ended up with first-place honors, including: Sean Flick, Anthony Mirando, Griffin Goldstein, Joseph Nicotra, Chase Sasso, Aiden Sewell, Christopher Holm, Joseph Chanis, Dakota Asuncion, Gavin Henrikson, Gaven Damasco, and Dom Algieri – nephew of Chris Algieri, the professional boxer from Greenlawn.
But results aren’t everything; with Blue Wave, Giaramita and the rest of the crew want to make sure that the boys don’t get entirely lost in the toughness and grit of the sport.
“Wrestling is tough… We try to keep it fun for the guys now so that when they get up to the high school level they have fond memories to look back on,” Giaramita said. “A lot of the parents go up to the hotel the night before so the kids can hang out and have fun.”
That fun will continue on Jan. 16, 2015 as the Blue Wave program celebrates its 15th year at the Greenlawn Moose Lodge at 631 Pulaski Road in Greenlawn with the “Club Blue Wave” fundraiser. For $65, tickets are available from www.bluewavewrestling.org and include beer, wine, soda and dinner. Nick Gio, “DJ Slick,” will take care of the tunes, gift basket raffles will be available and 80’s “retro” attire is recommended. Registration is due no later than Jan. 10.