Members of the Stratford Youth Wrestling program out of the Stratford PAL pose for a photo with some of their high school mentors during a recent practice. (Contributed photo)

Stratford Youth Wrestling looks to act as a feeder program for future

STRATFORD—Success in sports at the high school level truly starts with a feeder program.

That’s the main ingredient and wrestling coaches from Bunnell and Stratford high schools are making sure their programs will start being fed in the near future.

Sean Sloat, the head coach at Bunnell, and Brandon Tomlinson and Jordan Miran, two assistants at Stratford, are both involved in the new Stratford Youth Wrestling program that is being organized through Stratford PAL.

“The purpose of this program is to provide an opportunity for younger kids to try the sport of wrestling,” Sloat said. “Before this program started, Stratford kids would have to travel to other towns such as Milford or Trumbull and pay several hundred dollars just to try wrestling.”

Now, they’ll get to stay home with the program, which is  open to boys and girls from First Grade through Eighth Grade.

Classes are run on Mondays and Fridays at Stratford Jiu Jitsu at 60 Access Road in Stratford.  

The cost is only $25 for the entire season.

“Besides the low cost, another huge benefit of the Stratford PAL Wrestling program is the coaching and support we provide for the young athletes,” Sloat said.

Joining Sloat and the Stratford assistants are Anthony Gentile, an assistant at Bunnell, as well as Ron Ing, who coached in Milford, and Marc Halper, a Stratford Police Officer and former BHS wrestling standout.

Also giving back to the sport are a handful of the town’s high school wrestlers.

Bunnell wrestlers Brandon Toscano, Tanner Roper, Nick Demanche, Ryan Mclaughlin, and Julian DeMatteo are joined by Stratford’s Sean Meisel as mentors for the younger wrestlers.

“A big benefit that the kids really enjoy is that we have wrestlers from both Bunnell High School and Stratford High School that join the practices and act as mentors for the young wrestlers just getting started with the sport,” Sloat said. “The kids love getting to spend time with high school athletes and learning from them.”

The effort is a two-way street, though.

“This has also benefited the high school wrestlers,” Sloat added. “They are getting a chance to develop into leaders, give back to the community and be positive ambassadors for a sport that they love.”

The program is teaching wrestlers the basics of the sport in an effort to more kids involved.

Monday’s classes run from 5:15-6 p.m. for first through fourth graders and 6-7 p.m. for fifth-through-eighth graders.

On Friday, Classes are 5-6 for fifth to eighth graders.

The program will continue through the end of the school year.

“The kids work hard, learn a lot of wrestling from great coaches, get a tremendous workout and have a ton of fun at practice,” Sloat said. “We have some kids in the program that play football for Pop Warner and they decided to join wrestling to get better at football.  Wrestling is a sport that really helps develop athleticism in kids.  They learn fundamental movements such as footwork, balance, coordination, weight distribution and leverage that will help them perform better in other sports.”

Anyone interested in joining can just show up at practice and sign up. 

For additional information, I can be reached at sloats@stratk12.org.

The program directors are Erin Holroyd and Lt. Curtis Eller from the Stratford Police Department.  They can be reached at spal@townofstratford.org.

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