In an electric atmosphere, 635 youth wrestlers from every pocket of Florida gathered near Orlando to battle for the chance to be named an IOF State Champion.
Twenty-one of those wrestlers traveled from Tallahassee, competing for Grappling House Wrestling club, a local K-12 team that operates out of Titus Sports Academy.
In the end, one local wrestler met that goal by becoming state grand champion, a distinction earned by winning a gold medal at 6 individual qualifiers during the regular season, plus Gold at the state tournament. Only 12 others from Florida earned this title in 2023.
Bear Wesolowski, a 10-year-old Havana resident, became Grappling House’s first state grand champion in history by winning an overtime thriller by the count of 6-4. The match was decided in the final seconds with Wesolowski collecting a late takedown to claim the title in a ‘first score wins’ situation. His opponent, out of Miami, was a returning state champion who had beaten him 13-1 the prior season in the state semifinals.
The monumental turnaround from last year’s result was not an accident, Grappling House Head Coach, Jason Weslager said. The coach said it was calculated and meticulously planned out by the young wrestler.
Shortly after finishing third in the state in 2022, Wesolowski set two lofty goals for himself. One was to make the state finals in 2023, and the other to avenge the loss he suffered in 2022.
“Just setting goals isn’t enough,” Wesolowski said. You also must work hard to achieve them.”
“I do a lot of pushups and sit-ups every day and runs and hill sprints several time a week. I have also added pull-ups to my daily workout routine. My dad and I do it all together,” Wesolowski noted. “It’s important to have strength and endurance for tough matches, especially overtime ones. I also practice several times a week with Grappling House and my parents added a lot of private lessons for me with my coaches.”
Wesolowski said his technique and strength has gotten a lot better since last year.
Also important in wrestling is the mental toughness and confidence needed to push through nerve-wracking situations. Overtime in the state final presented just that situation, one that he said he was prepped for thanks to his strong faith.
“Praying and reading bible verses have given me a lot of confidence that things will work out how they’re supposed to,” Wesolowski shared. “It’s very important to me.”
Thanks to 3 pins and the overtime win, Wesolowski now claims the title of state grand champion, something that has never been achieved in the Tallahassee area previously.
“It still doesn’t feel real. My goal was to place higher than last year. Going into the final match, I had already reached my goal even if I didn’t win, but, it was overwhelming to know that I just won a State Championship,” said Wesolowski.
Weslager had kind words to say about his pupil.
“He’s got a bright future ahead of him, not because he won a state title, but because of how he did it. The attributes behind the success will make all the difference across his career. He’s coachable, hard-working, is willing to do whatever is asked of him, and he sets a great example for his teammates,” Weslager said. “Plus, he’s just a good kid who does all the right things off the mat.”
Grappling House had 12 others place in the top 4 of their weight classes, including 3 other state finalists.
Finishing as state runner-ups were D.J. Read, Carey Wesolowski, and Susanna Cheney.
Finishing as state bronze medalists were Isaiah Edwards and Cadence Aultman; and, finishing 4th in the state were Weston Middleton, Abel Wesolowski, John Cheney IV, Kendal Haynie, Reid Aultman, Daniel Clement, and Gus Griffith.
Grappling House will be traveling to Valdosta, Ga. on March 19 for the Georgia AAU State Tournament with a chance to add some more titles to the collection.
“We’ve got 3 more weeks of practice to get ourselves prepped before heading to Georgia State. We had several kids fall just short of reaching their goal of a state championship in Florida. I’m positive they’ll be hungry and ready to go when the time comes to head up to Georgia.”
If you’d like more information about joining Grappling House Wrestling Club, you can learn more about their team by visiting www.grapplinghouse.com. They accept students ages 6-18. No prior experience is necessary.
Erin Hill – firstname.lastname@example.org