By Rob Potter
FALLSBURG As they do every week, the members of the Fallsburg Youth Wrestling Club (FYWC) held practice in the Fallsburg Middle School cafeteria last Friday evening.
But it was not their typical workout session.
In addition to their regular coaches, the young grapplers were able to learn from a man with a wealth of wrestling experience.
Florian Ghinea won the 1993 national championship in his native Romania and was a member of the Romanian Olympic Team before be defected to the United States. He made his way to Montclair State University in Montclair, N.J. and joined the school’s wrestling team.
Ghinea captured two National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships while competing for Montclair State. His first title was in the 134-pound division and his second crown was in the 141-pound division.
In addition, he placed third at 141 pounds at the NCAA Tournament in his senior year of 2002.
He was named an All-American three times, in 1999, 2001 and 2002.
Ghinea now works for Levene Industries, a company which works in conjunction with 3M. But on evenings and weekends, he runs the Olympic Wrestling Club in Wyckoff, N.J.
Ghinea noted that this year, 43 high school wrestlers who train at Olympic Wrestling Club placed in the top eight of their weight class at the New Jersey state championships. Two of those grapplers won state titles in their respective weight classes.
Several of the wrestlers Ghinea has coached have gone on to compete at universities such as Brown and Penn State. One of those wrestlers, Penn State junior Dan Valmonut, took third place in his weight division at the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
“One of my goals is to send them to college,” Ghinea said.
On Friday night, the FYWC wrestlers watched and listened intently as Ghinea demonstrated several takedown maneuvers. He also explained the importance of maintaining a balanced, closed stance when preparing to lock up with an opponent.
The young grapplers then divided into groups of two or three to practice what they had just learned. After a few minutes, Ghinea called them to the center of the mat to introduce a new move.
Ghinea was enjoying himself as much as the wrestlers he was instructing.
“I enjoy doing this and giving back to the kids,” Ghinea said. “When I came to this country, I had no money and no friends. All I had was wrestling. I owe everything I have to wrestling. I want to share what I know with these kids. I want them off the couch, off the computer and out on the wrestling mat.”
FYWC Coach Al Feldman invited Ghinea to attend Friday night’s practice session.
“Florian is one of the best wrestling coaches around,” Feldman said. “To have a coach like him teach our kids will only make them better.”