Wyoming Seminary wrestling coach Scott Green will board a plane this weekend headed for the Junior Pan American Games in Cuba.Green has coached multiple programs and has been to his fair share of international tournaments. But he’s never had as many travel companions for a tournament of this magnitude as he does this year.
Four Sem wrestlers — Danny Boychuck, Nick Reenan, Michael Rogers and Chris Weiler — will all be representing the United States in the tournament that starts Wednesday in the island nation’s capital of Havana. The quartet of Sem grapplers was selected by USA Wrestling and together they comprise 40 percent of the U.S. team.
“It’s going to be awesome to go down there and compete at this level. And not just do it for yourself or for Sem, but do it for an entire nation,” Weiler said.
Weiler and Rogers will be competing internationally for the first time. Both are juniors who won Prep National Championships in 2015, Weiler at 160 pounds and Rogers as a heavyweight.
Boychuck and Reenan, meanwhile, have each competed internationally before and shared some advice with the other two about what to expect in the coming week. Reenan, who won the 170-pound bracket at prep nationals this year, has the most international experience of the four, according to Green.
The lone senior of the four is Boychuck, who will continue his wrestling career at Maryland next season. The end of his high school career in the states was marred by injuries, and Boychuck finished sixth at nationals.
“He really didn’t reach his goals at prep nationals,” Green said of Boychuck, who’s originally from Bear Creek. “So this is a nice chance for him to put an exclamation point on his high school career.”
From a wrestling standpoint, there is no scouting any athlete can do before they get there. The wrestlers said they know nothing of the opposition they’ll face next week, and all they can do is watch them in person when they get to the event.
Eleven North American countries competed at last year’s event in Toronto. Though the United States had the most first-place finishers with four, Canada won the event by 16 points.
The four Sem wrestlers and their fellow countrymen will be keen on topping last year’s finish for the U.S., but this trip is about more than wrestling. It was scheduled for Havana before the United States and Cuba eased travel restrictions in December.
However, it could be a once-in-a-lifetime trip not just as a traveler, but also as a representative of the United States wrestling program.
“You want to soak the whole experience in,” Green said. “When you’re young, you feel invincible, so you feel like this is going to happen all the time. But you can’t go in with that attitude. You have to treat it like it could be the last time that you get to travel to another country and put on the red, white and blue. You want to experience it as an athlete, but also as a world traveler.”
And what’s the secret to doing so? Rogers said it’s having a “good off switch.”
“You don’t want to be in one mindset the entire time, that tires you out,” he said. “There’s a time and place for everything. When you’re wrestling, you have to focus on your wrestling. But if you’re out on the beach, then you have to relax.”
Stephen Pianovich, citizensvoice.com
May 1, 2015