John Carroll sophomore Joey Vitucci got a late start in wrestling, but he's using his knowledge of aikido - a traditional Japanese martial art that's similar to ju-jitsu and judo - to help with movements and body mechanics.
Vitucci, a 125-pound wrestler who didn't take up wrestling until last year, went to three wrestling camps over the summer. He wrestled on junior varsity last year before moving up to varsity this season.
Vitucci finished fifth in a tournament earlier this month in Pennsylvania, and coach Keith Watson is impressed with his hard work.
What got you into wrestling as a freshman in high school, especially when you'd never done it before?
One of our fellow teammates, Matt Miller, he told me, "You should do a sport; you should try wrestling." I went in there for a day, and I loved it, and I got hooked on it.
How hard was it to learn the sport at first?
The coaches were great. They spent time with the new guys learning the techniques and stuff. I kept learning the stuff bit by bit and kept working at it until it all came into my mind. Probably maybe halfway through the season is when it started to kick in for me [and come together].
What was the hardest thing to grasp about wrestling at first?
I would probably say learning the hardest techniques, the more advanced techniques. You just have to do practices and repetitions. The team is just so wonderful, we all jell together.
How did aikido help you as you were trying to learn about wrestling?
It helped me move, helped me be quicker and helped me big-time.
You said your aikido coach helps with wrestling. What does he do?
I basically asked him what can I do in certain situations with the wrestling rules. He tells me how to get the advantage.
When did you start getting involved with aikido?
I started four years ago. Watching Steven Seagal's older movies got me interested. I go [three or four] days a week for lessons. I'm testing for a black belt probably in December of next year. It really does help me focus and stuff like that. It helps me remain calm in certain situations and keeps me aware ... especially on the mat.
Have you improved this year in wrestling?
I'm a lot better than I was last year. I'm really starting to get the moves down. They're coming [more] naturally. I'm getting quicker, and I'm blending all my moves together. It's one move to the next to the next.
What's your goal for yourself in wrestling?
My long-term goal would be to be a state champion [for private schools], that's what I want to do. I do get tough matches, and each match is an experience if I win or lose. If I lose, I find my mistakes and try to build upon that.