Everything still feels so new, it’s as if they started only yesterday — their makeshift desk sits in the front right corner of the training room inside the Friedman Wrestling Center, which is where they set up camp. Flyers, they admit, might have been a little late getting out to the public. But to Mark DiSalvo and former Cornell assistant coach Clint Wattenberg ’04, everything is unfolding according to schedule in regards to their master project, the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club.
The club, which officially opened session two weeks ago, was created in an attempt to serve as the next step in the advancement of the Cornell Wrestling program. After four straight finishes in the top-20 at nationals, including two straight in the top-5, Cornell joined the likes of Minnesota and Oklahoma State, two perennial top-notch collegiate wrestling programs that also have joint club teams.
“What brings you to that next level is the support of a great wrestling club,” DiSalvo said. “Although it is important that we keep the [varsity team] and the club separate, if you get the kids in here and get them interested by working, everyone gets excited.”
The FLWC, according to Wattenberg, was created to serve three main purposes.
“The main goal is to act as a booster club with the alumni and student body,” Wattenberg said. “The second is so that our elite athletes can have a place to train once they graduate and reach that next level, and the third is to develop the wrestling talent in the local area. We’re trying to utilize all that we have.”
All that we have includes the Cornell community. With a $10 fee and the purchase of a USA wrestling card (for insurance and liability issues), any member of the student body can participate in nightly clinics. No experience is necessary.
While instruction and training will the focal part of the FLWC’s agenda, club wrestlers will have access to the Friedman Wrestling Center, arguably the nation’s finest wrestling-only facility in the country. Other benefits include instruction as DiSalvo, who hails from Central Michigan, and Wattenberg were both two-time NCAA All-Americans. Add in clinics from Cornell’s most decorated wrestler of All-time, two time national champion Travis Lee ’05, as well as from current Cornell volunteer assistant coach Damion Hahn, and you have the most talented club-level wrestling staff in the country.
“The word is out about our collegiate program’s success,” Wattenberg said. “We’re just trying to make it so that our success is notable and accessible to the community.”
Tim Kuhls is a Sun Assistant Sports Editor. That’s Kuhls, Baby will appear every other Thursday this semester.