VALHALLA, N.Y. When a couple of Westchester Community College students approached Joe Boxer in September about starting a wrestling team, he was intrigued by the idea.
"I was so excited when the wrestlers came to me. Westchester has not had a team since 1978. The thought of being a part of something that you believe in and want to develop into something bigger was exciting," said Boxer, a former Fox Lane standout and current Iona Prep assistant wrestling coach.
"Wrestling is life and life is wrestling," said Boxer, a three-time sectional place finisher when there was just one tournament.
That was the beginning of what will become the officially sanctioned Westchester Community College wrestling team. Boxer said he has to apply for team status next month but has received positive feedback about competing next year.
"Some of the wrestlers were already wrestling at my club, then they reached out to some other guys," Boxer said. "On the first day we had 15 wrestlers. After one month, we were up to 30."
Boxer has recruited some of Section 1's finest, including sectional champions Tom Antonioli of New Rochelle and Scott Genovese of John Jay-Cross River; and sectional place finishers Edison Tenesaca of Sleepy Hollow, Charlie Gonzalez of Port Chester, Lenny Graham of Mount Vernon and Mike Taino of Pleasantville. He is waiting to hear from New Rochelle graduates Mike Figueroa and Malcolm Allen about transferring to Westchester. Allen was the 2011 New York State Division I 285-pound champion.
"That was the driving force behind it," said Boxer, who wrestled for legendary Fox Lane coach Joe Amuso Sr. "The wrestlers were very serious about this."
Once the interest spread, Boxer had to convince the administration that the wrestlers were serious.
"Our persistence paid off and we were recognized as a club team two months in," Boxer said. "Before we crossed the I's and dotted the T's, I wanted to convince the athletic director, Larry Massaroni, that we were creating something that we were very serious about."
Since the wrestlers came together under Boxer's guidance, they have practiced three days a week at Westchester and once a week at Boxer's club. Boxer said the team moved into the judo room at Westchester, which has a full-size wrestling mat.
Boxer said he will take wrestlers to tournaments in the next few months. Westchester opened by competing in the Middle Atlantic Wrestling Association Tournament on Saturday in New Jersey.
The team has received the athletic department's full backing, including a budget for the 2012-13 season.
"I didn't anticipate it would come this fast," Boxer said. "But we want to take it to the next level."
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