Rattler wrestlers not driven by recognition

In a sport where success is measured by determination and earned respect as opposed to fame and a sizeable paycheck, the FAMU wrestling club has thrived and has big plans for the future of the sport at our University.

“It’s not about the glory,” said senior construction engineer major, and team co-captain Hubert Poulard, still breathing heavy following last Friday’s season opening 26-24 victory over the Florida State University wrestling club. “It’s out of love and passion; most wrestlers just have a love for their sport. It’s a funny kind of love, but it’s what keeps us going.”

The FAMU wrestling club has the talent, qualifying six wrestlers to the National Collegiate Wrestling Association national championship last season, with Poulard, who wrestles in the 197-pound weight class actually becoming an All-American by placing fifth at the event.

The club also has the experience, with Poulard and other co-captain Laroy Harris, a senior science education major, entering their fourth season on the Rattler’s wrestling club. Poulard and Harris also serve as assistant coaches of the team, handling business on and off the mat.

“We’ve got our hands on both sides,” said Harris (who wrestles in the 184-pound weight class) of the player/coach title. “We go out and represent our team both as wrestlers and ambassadors of the sport.”

The sport of wrestling demands dedication and leadership, both qualities possessed by the club, and exemplified by current president, Abdul Sharif, who is only a sophomore at FAMU.

The only thing that seems to be missing from the club is funding and support from the University. With six wrestlers qualifying for nationals last season, budgetary issues only allowed for one to compete. The team does not plan on letting this stop them from achieving their goals however, and graciously accepts what is given to them.

“I feel that the (campus recreation) program can support the student body by giving them a solid base to start with, and from there, the clubs must take it upon themselves by fundraising, seeking scholarships, etc.,” said the director of campus recreation at FAMU, Bob Carroll.

Support seems to be on the way for the club though as Carroll cited the major expense of a wrestling program being the mat, which generally costs up to $4,000. The office of campus recreation is in the plans for a new facility, better suited for all sports, which does not have a set date of completion, but is expected at some point in the next few years. The facility is said to include more space, lit outside playing fields, and yes, a new wrestling mat for the team to practice and compete with.

FAMU’s wrestlers also have other goals beyond personal needs. They are attempting to institute a wrestling program at FAMU DRS in order to get the youth involved in the sport. An hour prior to their match versus FSU, which took place in the FAMU DRS gym, the wrestlers hosted a clinic with basic training and tactics open to the public, but meant for young interested wrestlers. They also invite all local area high school students from all over Tallahassee to join.

“These guys are strong on community service,” said head coach of the club Thomas C. White, who also teaches chemistry for the University. “We are inviting schools from all over to join and get exposure. The reason we’re doing this is because, we know everyone’s not going to make it to Penn State or Iowa, we want kids to know that we do have wrestling here in Florida, and these guys are making and breaking history.”

The next match for the club will take place on Nov. 12 at Lincoln High School, featuring clubs from the University of South Florida, Barton’s College, FSU and FAMU. Questions about getting involved with the club can be directed to famu_wrestling@yahoo.com.

Contact Reginald Snowden at famuansports@hotmail.com