By Maddy Vitale
Sam Williams and Jacob Wilson are best friends. They are also opponents, at least they were during the Tom Oves Memorial Last Call Tournament Sunday at Ocean City High School, in which 425 athletes competed from five states for trophies.
The friends, both 13 and in the Intermediate Division, wrestled each other in the afternoon, but Jacob beat his friend winning first place in the division. While Sam took second place. It didn’t seem to matter to the friends, who smiled and gave each other a pat on the back.
Scott Williams, treasurer for the Ocean City Junior Raiders Wrestling Club, is Sam’s dad. Both Williams and his wife Elaine, make their son Sam’s wrestling tournaments a family affair. The couple worked throughout the day, Scott at the microphone calling out match assignments and Elaine filling out sheets for the wrestling pairings.
Sam is the youngest of five brothers. The oldest is 29 and influenced his brother with his love of wrestling, Scott Williams said.
“Our oldest got him into it. He loves it. The practices are grueling, but it really teaches you character and gives you discipline,” Scott Williams said, while lining up trophies on a table. “It takes a lot of courage to go out there in front of hundreds of people to wrestle. It is good stuff.”
Vice President of the Ocean City Junior Raiders Wrestling Club Carl Wanek said the friends are talented wrestlers.
“They like the competition and they know the ultimate goal is preparing them for high school,” Wanek said of the friendly match, “They are both really good kids.”
Wrestlers ages 4-14 competed Sunday against athletes from their own town like Sam and Jacob, or against kids from other states, which included New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York.
Approximately 100 of the wrestlers were from Ocean City, Upper Township and Sea Isle. Several of them won trophies for besting their competition in the tournament.
The divisions are as follows;
Tots – K-2 grades
Bantams – 3-4th grades
Juniors – 5th and 6th grades
Intermediate – 7th and 8th grades
Rich Wheeler from the Ocean City Junior Raiders Wrestling Club, and his wife Laura, both of Ocean City, have two sons who wrestle, Ryan, 4, and 6-year-old Jack.
“They talk about candy, trophies and wrestling,” Laura said with a laugh.
Ryan put his game face on after he won his bout in the Tots division.
He then hugged his parents.
Sebastian Hudak, 8, in the Bantam Division, beat his challenger with one quick pin. The Wheelers, who are friends with the Hudak family, cheered him on.
Then Sebastian took the opportunity to high-five Wanek, one of his coaches.
Wanek said this year they are fundraising for hoists to raise up the wrestling mats and hoped that after the day’s event they would be able to purchase some.
The tournament, he said, always draws a lot of wrestlers and a big crowd.
They try to cap it at 375 wrestlers each year, but last year they topped off at 475 wrestlers, with this year not too far behind.
Wanek remarked that some people used the tournament as a “tune up” before heading to Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall where the state wrestling tournament was taking place throughout the weekend.
Wanek also noted that Sunday’s tournament was a good prep for his wrestlers to compete in the state championship next weekend in Ocean County.
“Everything is going really well,” he said, adding that they couldn’t do it without the work of the many volunteers. “They really help out.”
Every year, Wanek explained, people give of their time to help at the tournament manning the scoreboard, doing bout sheets, which is the official records of what happens in a match and anything else that needs to get done. The coaches are high school referees. Some members of the Ocean City high school baseball and wrestling teams, along the National Honors Society, volunteered Sunday for the event.
Jayda Majors, 17, of Sea Isle, Victoria Patella, 17, of Ocean City and Dayna Pfau, 17, of Ocean city, all from the National Honor Society helped with bout sheets. They spent the day seated at the “head table,” as it is called, where record-keeping takes place as well determining who wrestles who in each division.
They worked closely with Greg Young, president of the Ocean City Junior Raiders Wrestling Club, who oversees the event. Their day began, they said, at 8 a.m. to make sure everything was ready for the tournament.
Patella has been doing bout sheets for seven years and loves it, she said. Her brother used to wrestle, and she took an interest helping out.
Other Ocean City Junior Raiders Wrestling Club wrestlers who placed at the tournament includes as follows; Jack Wheeler – Second Place – Tots Division, Croix Snyder – Third Place – Bantam Division and Diego LaTorre – Third Place – Bantam Division.
Wanek noted that the wrestling club renamed the tournament to Tom Oves Memorial Tournament in memory of Oves, a beloved school board member who passed away in October 2017.