By Rob Potter
FALLSBURG Al Feldman wants to pass his vast knowledge of the sport of wrestling on to local kids.
Feldman, who won multiple state championships in both freestyle and Greco-Roman styles as a high school wrestler at Berner High School in Massapequa, Long Island and earned a scholarship to wrestle at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, is a coach and officer for the recently formed Fallsburg Youth Wrestling Club.
Other officers of the Fallsburg Youth Wrestling Club, which is affiliated with USA Wrestling, include Deana Feldman, who is Al Feldman’s wife, Michele Bennett, Joe Conway and Chris Lemke.
For two hours on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings at Fallsburg Central School, Al Feldman and his fellow coaches teach youth ages 5 to 15 the basics of wrestling.
One of those club members is Nick McLean, who is Al Feldman’s stepson. This past winter, McLean competed on the Fallsburg Comets’ modified wrestling team under the guidance of Coach Russ Alger.
The modified team was the first wrestling squad at Fallsburg Central School since the 1970s, when the school had a varsity program.
During the past three months, McLean, Steve DeMastrio and some of their fellow Fallsburg Youth Wrestling Club members have competed at tournaments throughout New York State.
“We recently added three tournaments to our schedule,” Feldman said. “We try to keep them within two hours of driving time from Sullivan County.”
Feldman noted that the club currently has 22 members.
And that the club is not just for boys.
“Girls’ wrestling is becoming very popular at high schools and colleges across the U.S.,” Feldman said.
During last Wednesday night’s practice, Coaches Bennett, Conway and Al Feldman worked individually with groups of two or three club members. They instructed the youngsters on how to properly utilize different holds and takedowns.
Fallsburg Central School Superintendent Dr. Ivan Katz stopped by for a few minutes to observe the practice session.
Katz, who has an extensive and accomplished amateur wrestling background, noted that the club is something very positive for kids in the community.
“Mr. Feldman’s dedication to this wrestling club is second to none,” Katz said. “I’m very encouraged to see so many kids involved with the club.”
Feldman and Katz are hopeful that as more youngsters become involved with the club it will lead to Fallsburg Central School being able to field modified, junior varsity and varsity wrestling teams in future academic years.
But they are not going to rush the process and risk the safety of the young grapplers.
“We won’t have a varsity team until kids can defend themselves and compete at that level,” Katz said.
The Fallsburg Youth Wrestling Club, which includes boys and girls from the Fallsburg, Liberty, Monticello and Tri-Valley school districts, will continue until the next scholastic season starts in November.
While Feldman and the other coaches want the young grapplers to face good competition in the weekend tournaments, they also would like them to have fun and stick with the sport for many years.
“It’s not about winning and losing,” he explained. “We want these boys and girls to learn more about the sport and enjoy it.”
The club began its three evenings a week practice schedule last week and new members are still welcome to join.
To learn more about the Fallsburg Youth Wrestling Club, please call Al Feldman at 693-4307.