HARTSDALE, N.Y. - Jason Parker had a highly-successful wrestling career while a student-athlete at Woodlands High school.
A five-year varsity wrestler, Parker, who began wrestling as a seventh-grader, won three Section 1 titles, accumulated more than 120 wins and finished fifth in New York State his senior year -- 2001. When it came time to plan his future, Parker hoped to one day return to Woodlands as a teacher and also become the varsity wrestling coach.
Parker was a volunteer assistant his senior year in college. My friend, Tim Criscitelli, his parents asked me if I would help out, Parker recalled. I worked with Tim and Nyame Cooper-White and they both went on to win sectional titles.
The following year, Parker became the head coach and it was just what the program needed after a series of coaching changes following his graduation. Now in his fifth year, Parker, a Physical Education and Health teacher at the high school and middle school, has brought stability and is restoring the pride to the program he remembered when he wrestled.
I wanted to bring back pride in the program, stability in coaching and pride in our school, said the newly-married Parker, who has his masters in teaching from Manhattanville College. One of the things I wanted to bring to the team when I first started was for the wrestlers to have fun.
I thought it was important because sometimes you lose site of that when you are constantly working so hard in this sport. You have to have fun when you are doing this.
Parker has progressively seen an increase in numbers in his five years. He also began a pee-wee wrestling program, last year, something Woodlands has not had in at least seven years.
The past two years, Parker has produced his first sectional champ - Amos Pierrette, now a freshman at Virginia State. Pierrette won the 2010 Section 1 small-school 285-pound title and last year was the 215-pound champion. He joins Parker and assistant coach, Nyame Cooper-White, as a multiple Section 1 champion for Woodlands.
Parkers presence in the school sets an excellent example for his wrestlers. Their coach is a former Woodlands wrestling great who has returned to his alma mater and is now a successful teacher who oversees his wrestlers, always stressing to them the importance of their education.
I tell them that the successful wrestlers are also successful students, Parker said. Do the wrestlers know who I am? I think they do. I think it gives them a sense of pride knowing that I went to school here. They keep telling me that they think its pretty cool that I went to school at Woodlands.
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