West Springfield Wrestler Spars on National Stage
A recent high school graduate from West Springfield is in North Dakota this week competing for one of the most prestigious wrestling titles in the country. State champion Abbas Tamaradze is originally from Uzbekistan. And unlike most of his competitors at the Junior National Championship he's only been competing for two years.
Many of the wrestlers who make it to the national or world stage start drilling moves like crotch grabs and headlocks at age four or five. When Abbas was that young, he was still in Uzbekistan going to school in the morning and working on his family farm the rest of the day. He says he watched wrestlers on TV, but didn't consider doing it because in the post-Soviet nation, there was no such thing as recreational wrestling.
"It's not an option, they have it as a career for some people. They live in a specific place and all they do is wrestle. It's like a job for them."
When his family moved to the US seven years ago, Abbas realized he could train and study. But his school, Hampden County Charter, was brand new at the time, and it didn't have any sports programs. In his junior year, Abbas changed that.
"I talked to my principal and told him I'd be a state champ once we get a coach."
That's when former Olympian bronze medalist Rodney Smith signed up for the job. Smith says he and Abbas walked the halls of Hampden Charter and signed up four other students for their first season.
"I didn't think we were gonna win a match at all. I just said guys this is just practice, [everything is practice] just go out there and have fun. And low and behold it was a miracle season. We won nine matches and lost five. Abbas does stuff that is just not natural on the mat. I mean he can score from positions that most human beings can't."
Smith says the Junior National Championship tournament this week in North Dakota is testing those skills. If Abbas wins this week, Smith says he'll go on to compete at the Junior World Championship in Bulgaria. Either way Abbas says he'll wrestle for Springfield Technical Community College this fall. And he's got a very specific goal for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.