High school winter sports are on hold until January 19. Basketball courts, hockey rinks, swimming pools — all are quiet.
The Staples High School wrestling team can’t practice or compete either. But they’re not taking the layoff lying down.
The Wreckers keep in shape by lifting. Not in the weight room, of course — that’s closed too.
Instead, the grapplers lift treadmills. Sofas. Pianos. You name it — if you’ve got a moving job (or any other work), they’ll do it.
And the service is free. (Donations to the wrestling program are gratefully accepted, for sure.)
The wrestlers form one of the tightest, most cohesive teams at Staples. (Their sport is one of the toughest, too.) Much of that is built on the foundation laid by Terry Brannigan. The former Staples wrestler’s son TJ graduated last spring after a stellar career. His second son Eamon is a junior on the squad.
As part of Brannigan’s effort 3 years ago to boost the morale of what was then a flagging program — and introduce the community to the team and sport — he realized that strong, enthusiastic teenagers could fill a need.
Facebook’s Westport Front Porch page often featured requests for help with jobs no one seemed to want to do. They were heavy, messy, small or required a truck.
One day Brannigan responded: “I know 30 fit, polite and responsible young men who are happy to do it: the Staples wrestling team!”
Quickly, someone asked how much they’d charge. He replied, “Nothing. If you’re happy, just say something nice about the team. If you feel like making a tip, it will go to the team.”
That was 100 jobs ago.
The first request was to clear wood and brush from a yard, left there by an unscrupulous contractor. The homeowner could not pay what Brannigan calls “extortion prices” of area companies. After the wrestlers’ final trip to the dump, she tearfully said, “you’ve restored my faith in this town.”
Word spread. Soon they were working nearly every weekend. Along the way, they met “the nicest people,” Brannigan says. “And we’ve had a great time.”
They have moved, cleaned and transported everything imaginable. The heavyweights do the heavy lifting; the light guys maneuver in tight spaces.
Since the pandemic struck, they’ve done a booming business moving treadmills. Some are ordered online, delivered to the garage, and need to be brought downstairs. Others are bought from someone in town, and must be transported.
“We’ve gone up and down and around obstacles no one else would touch,” Brannigan says.
The wrestlers put the treadmills together too, if needed. One of their favorite jobs was for a 103-year-old military veteran, who was excited to get back to exercising.
The list of jobs is long. The teenagers have moved hot tubs, patio furniture and a chicken coop. They maneuvered a piano down stairs that a professional mover would not touch (“without even touching a wall,” Brannigan says proudly).
They’ve planted 900 tulip bulbs, fixed awnings, removed snow too, took apart a stone wall, and broke down the Remarkable Theater after a concert.
Each time, Brannigan says, “we make a friend. We receive a donation. Most importantly, they meet our athletes.”
It’s a fun event for the boys. They meet at Brannigan’s house or the diner for breakfast before work, or have a donut afterward. (Hey — the season has not yet begun!)
Most weekends, 2 crews work. Sal Augeri helps Brannigan supervise, but the bulk of the work is done by the teenagers. Five have pickup trucks; one has a trailer.
It takes money to run a sports program, beyond what the athletic budget provides. The wrestlers are earning funds to pay for extra coaches, equipment, and some of the extras that make their program one of the best in the state.
Now all they need is a season. They certainly earned it.
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