Senior captains (left to right) Amanda Walker, Alex Muniz, M.J. Torres, and Chris Adamczyk are helping lead the Rocky Hill wrestling, on and off the mat, this winter.
When Paul Meyers took over the wrestling program at Rocky Hill High School there was only a handful of wrestling and no tradition.
Eight years later, the blossoming program has over 30 wrestlers and has created an environment of competition, comradery, and family.
“It’s absolutely surreal,” Meyers said of the development of the program, who last won a state title in 1998. “The Rocky Hill community has been amazing.”
Meyers said the key to turning the program around was distributive leadership, allowing his assistant coaches to take over more responsibility and having his captains play a major role, on and off the mat.
***Growth of a Coaching Tree***
Meyers’ coaching staff is full of former wrestlers from his previous experience coaching at Hartford Public High School and throughout his years at Rocky Hill.
Rob Ruiz wrestled for Meyers at Hartford Public in 2006 and eventually worked his way to a Division I scholarship, wrestling at Franklin & Marshall College.
Ruiz is back this year as a first-year assistant coach under Meyers, calling reuniting with his former coach, “Priceless.”
“I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. It’s nice to come back and be with the person that inspired me and try to inspire him back,” added Ruiz. “Coach Meyers has already built the culture and all I had to focus on is fine tuning those variables. These student athletes are smart and they pick stuff up really quickly.”
Ruiz is one of two former Hartford Public wrestlers on staff, the other is Luis Gomez.
Meyers also has a pair of recent Rocky Hill wrestlers working under him in 2021-graduate Romny Tejeda and 2022-graduate Tyler Brodeur.
Tejeda was on the ground level of helping construct the program at RHHS, seeing the development first hand.
“When I first started, it was a lot smaller. The sport wasn’t too popular and Meyers has brought this program to where it is now,” stated Tejeda. “The life skills that Meyers taught me in high school I didn't understand back then but now that I’m a coach I’m picking up on things that he was telling us.”
Brodeur went from competing for a state title and finishing top-five in his weight class at the Class S state championship a year ago, to now being a coach to his former teammates.
“It’s been seamless. It’s nice to have that friendship but at the same time I keep it to coaching when required,” Brodeur said of his sudden transition to coaching. “This sport has given me everything I have in life. It has changed how I view things and I want it to be the same thing with these kids. I want [the current wrestlers] to go on and carry on these life skills.”
***A Special Group of Captains***
Meyers called this season’s senior captains “great role models.”
Chris Adamczyk, MJ Torres, Alex Muniz, and Amanda Walker have thrived in the leadership role.
“They have been great leaders,” added Meyers. “It’s good for the [other] wrestlers to see it through their peers and not just their coaches. A lot of times it’s more important to see it through your peers.”
Adamczyk, Torres, and Muniz share a special bond, each earning all-conference on the football field for the Terriers this past fall.
Walker is in her second year as a team captain, also serving that role as a junior, and is one of five girls currently on the team.
Meyers said the number of girls could grow to as many as eight later this season.
Walker expressed how rewarding it is to see more girls coming out for the sport.
“For years I was the only girl. It was scary, but I’m glad the rest of the girls on the team have someone to look up to and it’s really great being a captain this year again and seeing the growth in the team,” said Walker, who says the positivity surrounding the team is at an all-time high this winter. “I feel like it’s going to be a great rest of the season because we are so close and we look up to each other.”
Adamczyk is coming off a 4th place finish in his weight class at the state finals a year ago. He said the team’s commitment to the weight room has made the entire team better.
“We knew it would be a big change from last year. We had 12 seniors and we came in with 20 freshmen,” added Adamczyk, who wrestles at 220 lbs. “We knew we’d have a young team, so we would be growing rather than success right away. It’s been a lot more journey to success and we are seeing a lot of progress.”
Torres is also a contender in the 195-pound division, saying the team has embraced the challenges of any and all combers.
“It’s a solo sport and in wrestling it’s up to you, but we have a great group here,” added Torres. “We are a younger team, but we have the horses to win any meet.”
Muniz says win or lose, the team is “one big family.”
“We are as close as it gets. We all care about each other and lean on each other,” added Muniz, who wrestles at 170 lbs. “Thanks to the coaches, they teach us how important family is and it means everything to us.”
The captain’s role this year is more important than ever.
Outside of five seniors and a junior, the rest of the team consists of sophomores and freshmen, leaving the
underclassmen with a steep learning curve
In an effort to bring the team closer, the captains award a weekly ‘Hammer’ to a wrestler that has went above and beyond or made significant strides.
The team also passes around a ‘Championship Belt’ that is exchanged weekly. The previous recipient picks out a wrestler who they believe is deserving of the honor.
***The Proof is in the Pudding***
The Terriers, a Class S program, have been ultra-competitive in every meet this season.
After winning consecutive dual meets at home –– beating E.O. Smith on Dec. 21 and Bloomfield on Jan. 4 –– the Terriers then went toe-to-toe with Class LL Glastonbury last Wednesday.
Muniz, Torres, Adamczyk, Dylan Stillwell, Edward Kocaqi, and Olivia Hopkins picked up individual victories in the meet against Glastonbury.
The meet again Bloomfield was especially memorable for reason other than the win.
Following the meet, the coaches from the upstart Warhawks expressed to Meyers how impressed they were with the professionalism and hospitality of the Rocky Hill wrestlers, coaches, and program.
“It feels really good to hear that about our program,” stated Meyers.
Because of the positive experience, Bloomfield will now take part in the Doc Meyers Invitational, a multi-school event that is named after coach Meyers’ father, Ed Meyers.
The invitational is back after a two-year hiatus and will take place at RHHS on Sat. Jan. 28 at 9 p.m.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin