Rebuilding a wrestling tradition


By Rick Palsgrove
Southeast Editor

Groveport Madison Cruiser senior wrestlers Matt Miller (left) and Eli Schleret square off during a practice session.
Groveport Madison Cruiser senior wrestlers Matt Miller (left) and Eli Schleret square off during a practice session.

The names of champion wrestlers of the distant and recent past line of the walls of the Groveport Madison High School wrestling team’s practice area at Middle School North.

The Cruisers first fielded a wrestling team in 1958 and through the 1960s and early 1970s the team was a dominant force winning a string of Mid-Eight League titles.

“We want to get back to carry on that tradition of success,” said head wrestling coach Mark Niemann.

Two years ago funding for the wrestling program dried up when the district instituted budget cuts. Funding was restored last year after the passage of an operating levy and the 19-member team struggled to re-establish itself and finished with a 2-7 record in dual meets.

This season the team has 25 wrestlers and things are looking up, according to Niemann.

“We like our chances to finish in the top half of the OCC,” said Niemann. “We have four, four-year seniors and some really good juniors.”

To also help raise the team’s profile, the team hosted the Mac Sims Memorial Junior Varsity Tournament on Dec. 5, the 11-team Tom Sparks Memorial Tournament on Dec. 19 and will host the 15-team Cruiser Invitational Jan. 30.

Niemann said the passage of the school levy in May 2014 along with the construction of the new high school are helping to  boost the wrestling program’s profile.

“We’ll have our own room at the new high school and we’ll be able to restore the Little Cruisers wrestling program that will help us cultivate new wrestlers,” said Niemann. “The new building will be a catalyst for the program.”

Currently the team practices in the gym balcony at Middle School North, which Niemann said is a fine practice facility, but not being located at the high school hurts participation.

“We estimate we lose seven to 10 kids a year because we do not have a physical presence at the high school,” said Niemann.

Niemann said wrestling is a sport for everyone.

“You don’t have to be tall or big to be a wrestler. It’s a sport for all shapes and sizes and genders,” said Niemann, noting that this year’s team includes two female wrestlers. “You can weigh 105 pounds and be 5’3” tall and flourish in wrestling and succeed like in no other. Not too many sports can offer that.”

Niemann said wrestling is unique because it is both an individual and team sport.

“It’s a delicate balance,” said Niemann. “As Rudyard Kipling said, ‘The strength of the wolf is the pack and the strength of the pack is the wolf.’ That is wrestling.”

Niemann said the goal is to not only to produce good wrestlers, but also good people.
“We emphasize personal accountability and discipline through eight “CRUISER” points: character, responsibility, unity, integrity, standards, enthusiasm and respect.”

Senior wrestler Matt Miller said wrestling is a positive force in his life.

“It’s real physical, one man against another,” said Miller. “It tests you physically and mentally. It gives you confidence and a good mindset.”

Niemann said he also wants the team to reach out to the community. This fall the team raked leaves for a retired veteran and Niemann said team members will be out shoveling snow for people this winter.

Visit or  Twitter at @MightyCruisers for information on the Cruiser wrestling program.

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  1. Mark Niemann is a huge presence in Central Ohio wrestling…I’m excited to see his team buying in. Big win at inaugural Tom Sparks event!


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