For a group of local wrestling enthusiasts, there was always something missing in the Gloucester winter sports scene.
In an area where the focus has always surrounded either the ice or the hardwood, the options for local athletes were limited during the winter months.
That group, headed by Kirk Benson and Steve McCarthy, has now changed that, as the Gloucester youth wrestling program kicked off its inaugural campaign with its first practice last night.
“Ever since I first came to Gloucester, I thought that there should be a wrestling program,” McCarthy said. “It seems like if you haven’t layed hockey since you were four years old, there was nothing for you.
“There’s a real need for a wrestling program. There’s a lot of tough Gloucester kids with a lot of time on their hands in the winter.”
With the help of others, Benson and McCarthy got the ball rolling on the wrestling program two years ago. A cash-strapped local athletics department slowed its progress, though, as the group couldn’t secure funding for the program until it could demonstrate sustainable participation.
So last year, they got things moving. With a single wrestling mat and what McCarthy termed a “rag-tag” group of eight-to-12 members, the wrestling program got itself, however slowly, underway.
Flash-forward 12 months and program has grown considerably, as upwards of 30 members are expected to turn out this year. With a four-man coaching staff that also includes John Bajoras and Josh Aldrich, the program will feature wrestlers as young as kindergarteners and as old as eighth-graders.
They’ll be housed in the auxiliary gym in the bowels of O’Maley Middle School, and while they still lack the numbers to host a dual- or tri-meet, the team will participate in a number of local tournaments.