A native of New Jersey, Darrell Aruanno comes from an area traditionally stout in high school wrestling. Having dedicated much of his time in recent years to the local mat scene, Aruanno would like to see Carroll County wrestling moving in that same direction.
A Carroll County high school varsity assistant coach from 2014-2016, Aruanno spends much of his time in his second home of Carroll County working with Carroll County Wrestling through the Carroll County Recreation Department. It is there, between Kindergarten and eighth grade, where champions are born.
“The regular season is in the winter, but we do a spring session and then a fall session. If you want to advance in wrestling, you really have to do pre- and post-season wrestling. You just do the high school winter season, you will do alright, but you aren’t going to see any state champions out of that program or people who move up in a state tournament,” Aruanno said. “I am from New Jersey and we have another level to our wrestling. We have two twins in high school and both went to the state championship, one won it last year, ranked number one in the country. It is just amazing to see it. These two are twins so they are built-in wrestling partners. Their father was a wrestler and started them at four years old. This is what happens. That is the kind of dedication and commitment you have to have.”
Of course, that can be hard to see for a four- or five-year-old just starting who is still a decade away from high school. But that is what Carroll County Wrestling is shooting for, as it now holds practices three days a week – Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday – unless there is an upcoming tournament, in which case practices are cut back to twice a week.
Aruanno can see some of those traits in some of the young wrestlers in the program, but more interest is needed. He said 13 wrestlers showed up for the team’s most recent event, but 15-20 would be a more optimal number. The program already has a good core of young wrestlers in Josiah “Turbo Diesel” Cummins, James “The Beast” Worrell and “King” Richard Kaufman.
Cummins started wrestling at the age of four, and even now, at seven, he often goes up against older and much bigger kids as he weighs roughly 40 pounds. That hasn’t stopped Cummings from going 14-0 in Carroll County’s last four tournaments.
“Josiah is a fiery little guy when he gets out on the mat. He can be shy and cheesy and he is one of the smallest kids we have got. And he will get discouraged, even though he has a great record,” Aruanno said. “When he wrestles these much bigger, older kids, I have to pull him aside and say, ‘Josiah, how old are you?’ And he will say, ‘Seven.’ And then I will say, ‘How old is he?’ And he will say ‘10.’ And I will say, ‘How much do you weigh?’ And he will say ‘45 pounds.’ And I will have to ask how much the other kid weighs and usually it is 60 or 70 pounds. And when I do that, he understands.”
Cummins’ father, Jeremy, is an assistant wrestling coach and he helped get Josiah started in wrestling at the age of four. Josiah’s older brother also wrestles, which helps, too.
“We are especially proud of Josiah because 14-0 is a big accomplishment. At the same time, all the kids are out there working hard,” Aruanno said. “They are out there day in and day out working hard in every practice and they are all good kids. It has been a pleasure and honor to be able to work with them.”
But more kids like Josiah are needed, Aruanno said. The winter season starts November 1 and he said he would just like to get kids to come out and try it and see if wrestling is something that might interest them. If they found out that is the case, then they can sign up. If not, that is fine, too.
Aruanno has played “every sport known to man,” from football, ice hockey, and wrestling to cricket in London. But wrestling is a little different, and one of the best sports in building character and finding out what you are made of.
“Wrestling is special. There are no excuses. It is just you. Especially as kids you tend to deflect, but you learn quickly that you can’t do that in wrestling,” he said. “Everybody is watching and you are out there by yourself with an opponent. You learn a lot about yourself and you have to push yourself, too.”
Anyone interested in the Carroll County Wrestling program is asked to check out the group’s Facebook page (Carroll County Wrestling) or call Aruanno at (609) 315-2664.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN