The core group of veterans on the Norristown Area High School wrestling team has been together for many years. They have gotten to be quite close, whether they liked it or not. Most of these guys have been going to battle with each other since they were potty trained. A few, like Mikey Springer, were still wearing diapers.
There was a 4-year-old named Brett Harner; he was the veteran leader because he had a year’s experience. Throw in the likes of Jesse Prante, Shane Springer, Larry Gordon, Brandon Parker, Tyler Letrinko, Casey Kent, and a host of others and there was the making of a lot of mayhem and great wrestling.
Zack Fuentes and Mikey Springer weren’t exactly friends back then. Zack wanted to be with the big boys, but wasn’t tall enough for the ride so he got stuck with Mikey, who thought he was Batman and was never seen without his cape. People didn’t even know his name; they would just refer to him as "Batman."
Once the team was assembled, the Plan was made and the training began. Most of their baby teeth were lost in the wrestling room. The First Aid kit was a roll of toilet paper. The kids were strongly advised not to waste it because they were not getting another (joke). If one got poked in the eye they were told to use the other one (joke). This group was tough and mean – even to each other.
That room was full of future stars like Timmy Harner, Brad Canterbury, Mike and Matt Moley, the Grabfelters, the Greens, the Powells (and I could go on), but THIS group stood out. We would go to tournaments and sweep through the division. Parents of other kids would come to the room just to watch these guys go at it. Other teams would send their best wrestlers for a work out, never to return.
Coach Mark Harner and the other parents delighted in all of this. Harner’s plan looked like a good one. He dedicated himself, along with other parents, to seeing that this group got trained and got to the high school as in tact as possible. Sure, there were more than a few that fell off of the bus along the way. Some even jumped on other buses. The road wasn’t ever easy but what in life that is worth anything is? It was always exciting and at times controversy seemed to reign.
Somehow this group got to Norristown High and the plan has worked. Now, we are starting to near the end of the long journey. Harner has always stressed that the prize is not the fun part of the journey – it is the hunt. The hunt for the prize, the quest to get to the top, is what the plan is all about. We have made sure to try and “smell the roses,” and it has been a great ride.
I and others will cherish what little time we have left. The end may be in site, but there is still a fire that burns. Now that we finally have everything figured out and might actually know a little about what we’re doing, it’s over??? That is not fair. I feel like Joe Montana getting edged out for a younger Steve Young. We all still have a lot left.
Sure there is college, but it won’t be the same. It was really a lot of fun to walk into a huge gym in, say, New Jersey as an unknown and leave with a bunch of hardware and all the locals wondering what we feed our kids. Owning the Inter County Wrestling League is no easy task. We not only owned it but made it look easy. They were always coming up with rules to try and control us. We were like the Pittsburgh Steelers of the '70s back then. It wasn’t just fun, it was great! I’m talking Tony the Tiger kind of great!
I’m not ready to hang up the whistle. I’m not ready to NOT have any more adventures. As I explained this to Harner and sought his advice, as I often do, he calmly turned to me and said, "We can always adopt." Wow, I thought, that is a great idea so I hurried home and spoke to my wife. This wonderful lady that has put up with me and all of this "fun over the years really was not in the mood for another great idea.
After discussing my dilemma with her she wisely pointed out that as our kids get older, they in turn may hopefully have kids. GRANDKIDS! That’s great! We can train them, spoil them a little, enjoy the heck out of them, and then send them home. A super idea, but there has got to be some planning. There must be a way to do this that yields the greatest chance for success. Let’s see, I have an older daughter and Harner has an older son and they should have some can’t miss wrestlers right? Wait, Harner has a daughter and I have two sons. One of them should be able to garner Mrs. Harner’s approval. That would make two couples. If each couple has three boys, that would be six thoroughbred wrestlers to carry the torch. I bet they’ll be quite handsome too.
Sorry, I’d like to tell you some more but I am on my way to call Harner and make another great plan!