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Wrestling team captains have a lock on leadership skills

The title of “varsity wrestling captain” didn’t come easy for Eric Bartnick and Joseph Fronczak. Hard work and determination are the keys to success in all sports, but to be a leader, one needs something extra, as these two Cheektowaga Central High School athletes have learned.

For most participants, wrestling isn’t just a sport, it’s something to learn and gain life skills from. Varsity wrestlers go through two-hour practices six days a week during the winter. Each practice consists of stretching at the beginning and end, an hour and 15 minutes focused on drills and certain wrestling maneuvers, and 45 minutes of wrestling one on one in a practice match.

Aside from all the physical conditioning and weight training, wrestlers of all expertise levels learn two major life skills: discipline and dedication which come into play with their leading capabilities.

Eric, a junior at Cheektowaga, has always had a knack for wrestling and started out in the wrestler’s youth program when he was in second grade. Five years later he became one of the most skilled seventh-grade wrestlers and was brought up to the varsity team by his current coach, Matthew Haberl.

“In all my 12 years of coaching,” said Haberl, “Bartnick was the first varsity wrestler I brought up from seventh grade, and that was probably the best thing that happened to him and the team.”

It’s Eric’s goal to win sectionals and possibly go on to bigger tournaments such as the state championships. Despite his goals, he isn’t sure he will wrestle in college, saying it all depends how much he accomplishes by the end of senior year.

Joseph is a senior who first started wrestling in ninth grade. His parents and Haberl pushed him to try the sport, and he’s never looked back from that decision.

“He may not be the best wrestler,” said Haberl, “but he’s a valued member of the team because of his top-notch discipline and demeanor.”

Joseph’s goals for his final wrestling season of high school are to go to sectionals and to win a scholarship to college.

To Eric, leading the wrestling team is one of the greatest privileges he could ever have asked for. Yet being a role model for his younger peers isn’t all about being one of the top wrestlers, it’s about his leadership qualities. But Eric wasn’t born a leader. He slowly gained confidence in himself when he excelled in wrestling and when he went to training camps.

When Joseph became a leader, he took that opportunity to lead the team into victories and pump them up before matches so each one of them would have the mentality to win. Also, being a role model was planted in Joseph’s mind at a young age. Confidence wasn’t really a problem for him; he always accomplished what he put his mind to. That mindset was another reason why coach Haberl chose Joseph to become the second captain.

Despite all the pain and losses that all wrestlers and captains go through, the famous quote, “Glory comes not from never falling, but in rising every time you fall,” keeps them getting back up to win again, in sports and life.

April Wright is a sophomore at Central Cheektowaga High School.

Wrestlers of all expertise levels learn two major life skills: discipline and dedication