FORT LEE, N.J.– Four Fort Lee High School Athletic Hall of Fame wrestlers hope they'll bring their sport back to prominence in the borough with a new youth program.
“You don’t have a successful high school team without having numbers in your junior program,” said Fort Lee Junior Bridgemen Wrestling Association head coach Tommy Cruz.
Cruz, his brother, Nelson, Robert Dillon and Brad Christie are leading a free, three-day summer camp – Tuesday through Thursday from 5:30-8:00 p.m. – at Fort Lee High School.
Forty-five wrestlers signed up, said FLJBWA President Mike Osso, who created the non-profit organization in May.
“We’re all on the same page,” said Cruz, who previously coached the junior program from 1989-2000. “We have one goal: To teach the kids the sport. We know what direction we want to take this program and we’re all striving for the same thing. It’s not about the coaches. This is about the kids learning the sport and competing at a level they’re able to compete at.”
Even then, the collection of talent is hard to look past, Osso said. “To have four hall of fame wrestlers as coaches – that’s unheard of in a junior program.”
Tom Cruz was a district champion in 1979 and Bergen County champion in 1981.
Nelson Cruz posted a 104-17 record during his high school career. He was a four-time District 16 champion; two-time Region 2 and Bergen County titlist; and four-time state tournament qualifier.
Dillon won two district titles and was a county and region champ in 1997.
Christie was one of the Bridgemen’s most decorated wrestlers, winning four district crowns, three region titles, and two county championships. He was a state runner-up in 1999.
“You have not only the four of us who are hall of famers, but you’re getting people from Fort Lee,” said Cruz, 53. “Wrestling is a great sport, something that kids can excel in. We want to get as many kids out for the program, teach them the sport and see if they like it. Then hopefully we'll feed the high school program and bring back that pride.
"If we get the numbers, I guarantee Fort Lee wrestling will be back.”