Wrestling Without a Home: Youth Program Turns to Council for Help

Just a few years ago, the Berlin Youth Wrestling program reached a peak with 90 participants and developed a reputation as a strong community partner, but with no space and no money, the program needs help.

Head Coach Roger Moss addresses the council as the Berlin Youth Wrestling program seeks a new home. (Credit: Jason Vallee)
Head Coach Roger Moss addresses the council as the Berlin Youth Wrestling program seeks a new home. (Credit: Jason Vallee)
If you travel to any New England town with an interest in wrestling, they will tell you openly how strong the youth program in Berlin can be. It’s a program that has provided strong athletes, encouraged volunteerism, promoted youth leadership and developed partnerships throughout the community.

It’s also a program that is now facing a potentially abrupt end as Berlin Youth Wrestling is left without a home.

“Just two years ago, we had a total of 90 participants but were forced to relocate to Middletown in order to accommodate our needs,” said Roger Moss, Berlin resident and head youth wrestling coach. “Over the last several years, it has drained our account. Without a new place to wrestle soon, there will be no youth wrestling in Berlin.”

Now the program and Moss are turning to the Berlin Town Council for help, pleading the town to find space to save the program and prevent it from going under. And the Council, led by Mayor Adam Salina, offered support although that support may include outside the box thinking such as a partnership with a private business.

For the Berlin Youth Wrestling program, space has been an issue since 2011.

At that point, the program had expanded into one that was well recognized in the northeast. The program, which feeds the middle and high school levels, was forced to leave the Knights of Columbus building due to structural issues.

Moss said the group landed on its feet in Middletown, but over the past two years has depleted their account with costs that reached towards nearly $10,000 in expenses and the travel caused the number of participants to dwindle to just 45.

“The school gymnasiums are full, especially in the winter time, and we’ve talked with the Board of Education. There is just no room,” Moss said. “They are looking for a closet to set classroom space in. There is nothing available for us.”

Moss’ plea had support from local residents as well, including Elizabeth Road resident Richard Mullins who said he watched the program help mold his son into a talented leader and young adult.

“I’m the parent of a son who graduated from Berlin High School last year,” he told the council. “Through this program’s effort, he participated in fundraising events and the program taught him discipline, character, commitment, respect for himself and his opponents, the need for volunteerism and strong work ethic.”

Salina, with backing from other members of the council, said the board did not have the authority to designate a space, but is interested in helping the group find a home.

The effort will need to involve more discussions and will likely need to extend beyond town properties such as partnering with a business, he said, but with some work and ongoing discussions, there should be a solution in the community.

“There may some opportunities there,” Salina said. “We will insure, if at all possible, that the program continues and succeeds.”

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Rich Rampone September 05, 2013 at 10:25 PM
I can sympathize with Roger Moss. I have a grandson who was so into wrestling and his mon and dad were behind him all the way. At one time, they worked out at the Knights of Columbus building but then the Town fathers let a dog training school move into the building. Now no one can say I'm against dogs as we have owned one for years and at one time I was the K-9 Officer for the Berlin Police Dept. But the Town let the dogs take over the Knights building and our Maintenance Department just let the building go into complete disrepair. WHY? I certainly cannot answer that question. We, the Town bought that building a number of years ago for a good price and at the time, the building was in good repair. It was purchased with the hopes it could be used for a senior center, senior housing or a community center. At one time I thought it could be developed into a police headquarters. It is near the Town Hall and a road could be developed to connect both. Now it sits idle and so do our young wrestlers. At this point, I'm not sure what I'm looking for. It certainly isn't to fix up the Knights building. That would, at this point be too costly. I guess what I'm hoping for is someone find, give or rent (within reason) a location for our youth to continue their wrestling program.
Guido September 06, 2013 at 08:33 AM
What better way to build character than for the youth to learn how to support their extracurricular activities financially on their own rather than acquiring a sense of entitlement, which now pervades half of our American population. Whatever happened to fundraising activities? Car washes, cutting lawns, shoveling driveways, raking leaves, etc.? A youth has never come to our home offering to cut our lawn, rake our leaves, shovel our driveways. They do not walk to school: a bus picks them up and drives them to school and home. When I was a youth, the YMCA would not let me join unless I came up with the money by delivering newspapers in rain, sleet, and snow.
Guido September 06, 2013 at 10:37 AM
Lifelong Berlinite: thank you for your comment. But more importantly, what better way to build character than to instill in the youth not the sense of entitlement--the gimme attitude that pervades 47% of the populace today living off the government--but to have the youth EARN the money for their activities. I have NEVER seen one youth come to our neighborhood and offer to cut our lawn, shovel our driveway, rake our leaves, for $20. Have you? When I was a youth, I cut lawns, shoveled countless driveways, raked mounds of leaves, and cleaned out basements and garages of retirees, etc., for my spending money and to pay for my membership at the YMCA. And parents wonder why the youth are spoiled?! People wonder why a large proportion of our population are living on entitlements without giving back to the community?! This country has gone down the toilet.
Rich Rampone September 06, 2013 at 03:28 PM
I certainly have to agree with everyone that commented on my plea for help for the wrestling. While we are on the subject of the high school from Guido, do you know that several items of concern were dropped from the original BHS building that were important to keep the accreditation, such as the science center. The school is already well over the budget we voted for and yet there is no place for the band, drama club and probably others. Why? You are also correct about shoveling snow or raking leaves to earn money but that is the way of life for this rich community. Check out the school bus riders. The parents pick up a goodly number of children in their Bens or BMW. The student parking lot, not only Berlin, is packed with vehicles. Back in the day, high school seniors were the only ones with a vehicle. The discipline a youngster learns from sports, including wrestling, is unmatched in the classroom. We are truly a country going down the toilet. As a last remark by me regarding this whole issue, had I known Mrs. Moss was/is a member of the BOE, I certainly would have made my first plea differently.
Suzanne Helm September 08, 2013 at 12:03 PM
can they use a local elementary school gym or maybe the old clubhouse at Pistol Creek? I think that building is under utilized, but I am unsure of how much space they need in regards to what each location may have to offer.


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