DANBURY, Conn. -- The wrestling program — past and present — was honored this year and inducted into the Danbury High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
At a recent ceremony dubbed "Decades of Dominance" at the Amber Room Colonnade in Danbury, which included a reception and dinner, the team was recognized for this honor.
Danbury resident Estela Camacho, whose sons Jakob, 16, and Daniel, 13, started with the Danbury Youth Wrestling Association in-house program in the first grade, attended the ceremony.
"History came alive in the form of pictures, video and alumni speaking of the hard work and the foundation of excellence that reinforces the vision and mission of our athletes and coaches," Camacho said.
Jim Blansfield, president of the Hall of Fame Committee, welcomed everyone and introduced Master of Ceremonies Bart Busterna. A video was shown that gave many a glimpse of the history of wrestling.
Attendees included Mayor Mark Boughton, state Sen. Michael McLachlan, Danbury High principal Dan Donovan, Danbury High Athletic Director Chip Salvestrini, and the DHS Athletic Hall of Fame Board of Directors.
The Danbury High School Wrestling Program, which started in 1966, has won 29 of 30 FCIAC Championships, 16 out of 20 Class LL Championships, and the 1990 New England Championships. The program has produced 10 High School NHSCA All Americans since 2006.
Although individuals have been inducted into the Hall of Fame in the past, Ricky Shook of Danbury, head coach of the Danbury High School Wrestling Team, said this was the first time that an entire team was inducted.
There are 160 kids in the program, raging from kindergarten through 12th grade.
According to Shook, the program has won more championships than many other programs in the state. "We are the Top Three in the Northeast every year," he said.
Shook believes the team is a dominant program because of all the help it gets from parents and coaches.
"We have continuity throughout the program," he said. "It is very unique in that we start the kids in kindergarten and and teach them all the way through the high school level."
Mike Morris, a former Danbury resident who retired in 1991, took over the program in the late 1970s. "With help from PAL, the Danbury Parks and Recreation and parents, this program really got underway," said Morris, who now lives in New Milford.
Morris agreed with Shook in that the wrestling team has an outstanding feeder program. "When we first started, there was no feeder program. Our kids had only competed in 10 or 12 matches but now, by the time they get to the high school, they are veterans."
Camacho said wrestling still plays a significant role in her sons' lives.
Daniel Camacho wrestles for the DYWA middle school program and plans to wrestle for Danbury High School next year. Jakob Camacho wrestled with DYWA through middle school and when he was in eighth grade, he joined the Danbury Beast Training Wrestling Club.
"Shortly after, Jakob expanded his training, traveling, and challenges by making his transition to Iowa Style Wrestling (ISW) in Somers, N.Y., where he continues to train.
"Wrestling has given both boys an opportunity to remain active, develop friendships, and develop self-esteem and confidence," she said.
The club focuses on wrestling techniques, conditioning and training, according to Camacho.
"It has taught them the correlation between hard work, determination, and success that is applicable to all aspects of life," she said. "Jakob has developed a love for the sport like no other. His drive takes him to a level of competitiveness that won’t cease."