When Poland student Adam Travis steps onto a wrestling mat, he enjoys knowing he will be completely responsible for the outcome.
The one-on-one aspect of wrestling allows him to focus in on nothing but what he and his opponent are doing.
On Columbus Day Weekend, Travis will be locked into that direct competition again — except everything around him will be different. The 16-year-old will be competing in a wrestling tournament in Puerto Rico.
“I’m looking forward to traveling out of the country and participating in the sport I love,” he said. “I’ll be experiencing a different culture and meeting new people.”
A junior at Poland, Travis was selected to be a member of the Mohawk Valley Wrestling Club team that will depart for Puerto Rico Thursday to compete in the Copa Sparta Freestyle Tournament.
About 300 wrestlers from several countries will be competing in the tournament.
The Mohawk Valley Wrestling Club, which represents USA Wrestling, will also take time during the trip to experience Puerto Rican culture and tour the island.
In order to raise the $650 needed to participate in the trip, Travis has obtained donations from local businesses and will be using money he earned while working for his father and at a local recreation center.
Travis started wrestling in ninth grade and has loved the experience — even if it has not always been easy. His freshman year was a struggle, but when he earned his first win near the end of the season, he knew he could compete in the sport, he said.
As a sophomore, following a strong first match, he was knocked unconscious during his second match and had to miss two weeks of action. After returning, Travis won enough matches to qualify for the Section III Class D tournament.
Following the season, Travis approached his varsity wrestling coach, Poland technology education teacher Mark Harlander, and asked about ways to improve in the offseason. Harlander told Travis about the Mohawk Valley Wrestling Club, and an opportunity arose to train with the club this year in Whitesboro.
“He’s got the heart and determination to get better each time he steps on a mat,” Harlander said. “I’m proud of him, and I’m proud of the opportunity he has.”
After signing up for the Puerto Rico tournament, Travis went through a selection process that was based on effort, personality and respect.
“I showed up to every practice, worked hard every time and asked questions when I didn’t know how to do something,” Travis said.
Travis expects the tournament experience to help him entering his junior season at Poland, and he would like to share any new insights he gains with his teammates.
Page 2 of 2 - “I’m hoping I can definitely talk to the team,” he said. “I’m not the best wrestler at Poland — I know I’m not — but I’m determined. And if you’re determined, I think that counts more than your record.”
Travis he has enjoyed being part of Harlander’s varsity wrestling program.
“I love wrestling, and he taught me that I can do anything, really,” Travis said.
The varsity wrestling program at Poland will be entering only its fourth season this winter, and Travis will be the first Tornado to compete in the Puerto Rico tournament.
Wrestling matches in high school are based on scholastic — or folkstyle — wrestling rules. The tournament, however, will be operating under freestyle rules, which Travis learned about at the Mohawk Valley Wrestling Club.
Travis said it will be interesting to go up against people who have wrestled freestyle their whole lives, but he thinks hard work will be able to overcome the difference in freestyle experience.
Harlander believes Travis will learn things from the trip that he’ll be able to share with Poland’s other grapplers.
“It’s a terrific opportunity — not just for him, but the program as well,” Harlander said. “He has the opportunity to represent not only himself, but also the whole community and the entire United States.”
Travis will travel with some of the best wrestlers in the state and compete against some of the top wrestlers in the world at the tournament, but that’s not the only value of the trip, Harlander said.
“I hope that he comes away with a great experience — more than just what happens on the mat,” Harlander said. “Not everybody gets to go to Puerto Rico.”