Tonawanda News — To get a leg up on the competition, many parents get their children started in sports at an early age.
Tyler Bartolomei, a 12-year-old wrestler from North Tonawanda, has been on the mat since he was 8, and his father Brad said his experience is what separates him from other competitors his age.
After finishing third at states last season, Bartolomei placed first this year in the 60-pound division to earn a trip to nationals, where he finished fourth. Brad Bartolomei said his son is the first NT Sprawler to place at nationals since current Lumberjack standout Troy Keller.
In season Bartolomei practices three to four times a week and in the off season he trains one or two days to stay in shape and improve his technique.
Brad Bartolomei said that Tyler’s technique is improving every day and it’s part of the reason he’s been so successful.
“He went from just doing a couple moves to now he is doing stuff I never learned in school,” Brad Bartolomei said. “We train in a garage out in Elma and he’s been learning a lot of technical moves. He’s been getting kids in arm bars and lynching these kids up. It’s pretty cool watching him do it.”
Youth sports build mental strength, Brad Bartolomei said. Kids that wait until high school to get involved in a sport are usually behind those who have been doing it for several years.
Tyler was able to attend a few NT varsity practices with his dad and other Sprawler teammates. Brad Bartolomei said NT coach Don Fire is a big supporter of the Sprawlers’ program and getting kids to build toward the varsity team.
Tyler said he enjoys the one on one aspect of the sport.
“I like it because it’s a one on one sport. It’s not like football where it’s 11 on 11,” he said.
Tyler has recently started to change his game a bit. Brad Bartolomei said he used to be a stricly offensive wrestler, but has started to wrestle more defensively of late.
“His favorite move has been when he’s on top, using a cross body leg ride,” Brad Bartolomei said. “He’s been pinning some kids with leg splits and some guillotines. But I’d say he is strongest on top.”
Over 1,000 kids from across the country qualified for nationals and Bartolomei’s performance this season has many in the NT wrestling community excited about his potential.
Brad Bartolomei said as talented as he is, Tyler will continue to develop and learn, and hopefully one day make a run at the high school’s all-time wins record. Maybe one day he could even be as good as Keller.
“Troy is a bit more aggressive and he’s stronger, so he comes at you kind of harder,” Brad said. “Tyler’s been more defensive. He used to be more offensive and attack, attack — when he did that he won. But he’s taken some tough losses because he’s changed his style around a little bit.”
Both Tyler’s parents couldn’t be more proud of their son, who has posted a 40-13 record so far this season.
“To watch him out there the first few years I was nervous, but I’m getting better at it,” said Katie Bartolomei, Tyler’s mother. “He goes in with this confidence that gets better and better every year. To know that when he goes out there that he’s confident and ready to fight, then to see him win is just remarkable. He’s a tough little kid.”Contact Sports Editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.