Trenton Youth Wrestling: Genesis
“What if… this program grew to its potential? What if these young girls and boys get the same great coaching, teaching, role models, and mentorship that I was blessed to have? What if Trenton Youth Wrestling produced an Olympian? Why not?” - Kyle Snyder, Rio Olympics Gold Medalist
By Trenton Youth Wrestling Founder Dr. Mark R. McLaughlin
Last fall I had the honor and great pleasure of spending a day with the youngest American wrestler ever to win an Olympic gold medal, Kyle Snyder. Kyle, who captured the gold in Rio de Janeiro, gave an inspirational talk to young wrestlers last fall at the Titans in Trenton wrestling festival in Trenton, NJ, a tough, blue-collar town that has few wrestling programs. Read more about his visit here.
The events of that day were not only enjoyable; they also reinforced my plans for the next phase of my life.
Titans in Trenton was sponsored by the Wrestlers in Business Network of Princeton, Beat the Streets Philly, Capital City My Brother’s Keeper, and the City of Trenton. The clinic’s dual goal: to raise awareness for the Trenton Youth Wrestling program and to encourage kids to become scholar-athletes and good citizens who affect positive change.
When asked by an aspiring youth wrestler what it means to be a champion, Kyle Snyder said, “I know a lot of people who haven’t achieved the accolades that others have, but in my eyes they’re still extremely successful because of the way they carry themselves and the way they think about their sport or whatever else they’re doing. Champions simply become the best people they can possibly be. Wrestling has taught me to be consistent in all aspects of my life, to treat people nicely, to work hard and to value positive things. If you surround yourself with people who inspire you to do great things, believe in yourself and work toward a goal, you can get it done.”
At the event, I saw many wrestlers I coached years ago at the Princeton Amateur Wrestling Society (PAWS) which has now grown into a bigger, more comprehensive wrestling Regional Training Center called Princeton Wrestling Club (PWC.) PWC resides on the Princeton University campus and is now the home for many great wrestlers including some hopefuls for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020. It was great to see so many familiar faces from our old club who are now thriving in high school and college. I am proud to see how great they’re doing. For example, Gordon Wolf is wrestling at Lehigh University; Owen Jones is headed to NYU; and Will Kuenne is off to Washington and Lee.
Canaan Bethea was also there. Canaan, who helped found Trenton Youth Wrestling, is from Trenton and he went on to the University of Pennsylvania. About 15 years ago, he and his family walked through the door at PAWS and started working out with us. I remember thinking how lucky we were to have great wrestlers from Trenton come into our wrestling room at Princeton. I also thought to myself: someday we’ll bring this program to Trenton.
As I listened to Kyle Snyder talk to the kids at the Titans of Trenton event, I had an inspiration. If we brought youth wrestling to the elementary and middle schools in the city, Trenton could become a hotbed for wrestling in the future. All the ingredients for success are there—what I call the “four Ps”: the right plan, place, people and partnerships. We’ve created a plan using the knowledge and experience I acquired over 15 years of teaching wrestling to the young athletes of PAWS.
The place is Trenton, a city I deeply respect for its history and one that I work in as a physician. Trenton can also provide people who know wrestling and are dedicated and passionate about their community. Lastly, we developed productive partnerships with: Wrestlers in Business, an organization dedicated to growing wrestling at a grassroots level and cultivating careers post-wrestling. This is bolstered by an affiliation with Beat the Streets Philly a group that provides tutoring and mentorship for young wrestlers; and the Betheas, a long-standing family of talent and character in Trenton who can provide a direct connection with local organizations and people. The Betheas are living proof that wrestling and scholarship can make one’s dreams come true. It’s a perfect fit and a perfect opportunity for positive change to happen.