GROTON, N.Y.—With head coach Ben Nelson leading the team for the first time, Groton Central School District’s small varsity wrestling team attended the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Championships in Albany. Despite only having four members total, three members of the team qualified and competed at the statewide competition.
At the championships, junior Aidan Shufelt, who wrestles in the 110 lbs. weight class, won his match 3–2 and taking third place. Shufelt has had “a remarkably competitive weight class all year,” according to Nelson,
Shufelt said that he has been wrestling since he was little, and that he has an intense off-season coming up now that states are over.
“[Matches] this year were all really close, there were a couple of heart-beaters,” he said. “I’m definitely going to train harder this off-season than I did last year so I don’t come to the season out of shape this year,”
“He went in, he had his mind set straight and he ended up coming away with a win against a kid he had lost to twice this year,” Nelson said.
In the 172 lbs. weight class was senior Isaac Allen, who placed fifth in the sectional championships last year and took second place at sectionals to qualify for NYSPHSAA this year, though he lost his first state match 12–2.
“He had a tough set of matches, and unfortunately […] he was done the first day, but it does show improvement from last year, that he wasn’t able to make it and this year he was,” Nelson said, adding Allen also ended his high school wrestling career this past weekend.
In the 215 lbs. weight class is senior Donovan Mitchell.
“Last year, he didn’t make it to the podium, but this year he went out and it was an up-and-down battle, some pretty tough matches. He ended up getting the job done, and he finished seventh place,” Nelson said.
During the offseason, Shufelt said, athletes typically train at different clubs in the area.
NYSPHSAA sees both Division I and II schools (Groton is smaller and a Division II school), with 12 or 13 weight classes depending on the year. Nelson said that there were approximately 560 wrestlers at the tournament total.
“Since knowing we only had four wrestlers on the team, and three of them are the caliber that they are, I’m pretty sure that’s why the school opted to continue having the season — because we had such a good caliber of wrestlers,” Nelson said. “We may be small, but we’re going to win some matches.”
NYSPHSAA sees both Division I and II schools (Groton is smaller and Division II school), and Nelson said there are typically 24 wrestlers per weight class for a total of close to 560 at the tournament.
“The opportunity came for coaching, and I didn’t want to see the program go away because a coach wasn’t going to step up to do something, so I decided I was going to step up and do something,” he said. “It turned out to be a pretty successful season, I think.”
Nelson wrestled for five years at Groton, graduating in 2002, and said that he’s enjoyed watching the team over the years.
“I’ve followed [the team] a little bit over the last several years, and you see the quality of the wrestlers in Groton,” Nelson said.