Wrestling academy opens in Saugerties

Joseph DePola, Chris Farrell, Joseph Thompson and James Bethel stand next to a poster listing the characteristics and code of conduct by which the academy operates. (photo by Robert Ford)

“It’s a dream come true,” says Glasco resident Joseph DePola as he looks around his newly opened New York Wrestling Academy (NYWA) at Simmons Plaza on Route 9W. With its karate school, fitness center and now the wrestling academy, the plaza is quickly turning into a center for physical fitness,.

DePola, a graduate of Saugerties High School, was looking for a location for his wrestling academy. “I was just looking for a space that fit my needs,” he said. He didn’t realize there were several businesses associated with fitness there. Once people working out at the two fitness locations realized there was a wrestling academy nearby, however, they have been “coming over and signing up for classes.”

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DePola, a former standout wrestler at the high school, has brought in a number of people familiar to the local wrestling community. Chris Farrell served as the Saugerties modified wrestling coach under varsity coach Dominic Zarrella. Joseph Thompson, who is home for the summer from college, is arguably the best wrestler to come out of Saugerties High School. And now James Bethel, a nationally ranked wrestler, has been added.

“We’re all certified coaches with the USA Wrestling program,” DePola says. He believes that local youngsters as well as adults will benefit from working out and learning at the NYWA.

“There’s nothing like wrestling,” DePola says, “it helped change my life around, and we’re here to help it do the same for others.” DePola said wrestling helped him make better decisions how to lead his life. His fellow teachers at the academy have had the same experience.

“When kids come into the NYWA, they have to agree to follow the tenets of our program that we hope will give them a chance to be good citizens,” DePola said.

There are no age restrictions for those wanting to learn to wrestle, or those who were wrestlers when they were in school and want to work out. “We’ll also take the high school or college wrestler and take them to the next level of the sport,” DePola said.

“One of the advantages here,” Bethel addd, “is that we all can teach the different wrestling techniques that are needed to be successful wrestlers.”

DePola said that one of the reasons he wanted to open a wrestling academy was to offer locals the opportunity not to have to travel all over the place to be able to wrestle year-round.

Like many other sports, wrestling as gotten to the point that to be successful on any level its practitioners need to work on it regularly. That’s why so many wrestlers will join club teams.
The new academy means there’s a local place for Saugertiesians to learn the sport and to pursue it.

The NYWA has made academics an important part of its system. “For kids that wrestle here, we make sure that they have their homework done before they are allowed to hit the mats,” Farrell said. Tutors who have worked in the Saugerties school system for many years, college students, and high-school students will work with the young wrestlers on their academics.

“We work to teach the kids a code of conduct that will help them in school and in life,” DePola said. “We want to teach the kids to be good individuals and responsible citizens.”

The academy space can also be rented for birthday parties, DePola added.

To learn more about the New York Wrestling Academy, stop in at Simmons Plaza, give a call to 247-3889, or visit the school website.

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