Wrestling: Westerville North Warriors making impact in community
Sylvester Bockarie had a rough night in the terms of a high school athlete.
Despite rushing for 165 yards on 33 carries with one touchdown in a game his Westerville North football team led much of the way, the Warriors lost 32-28 to Westerville South on Sept. 11 in OCC-Capital Division play.
Regardless of how bruised and battered he was, Bockarie and Connor Euton, a teammate on the wrestling team, were up the following dayat 8 a.m. moving furniture as part of the Neighborhood Bridges program, a 501c3 charity helping residents in need.
“I was pretty banged up, but I wanted to be out there to help,” Bockarie said. “Since I came here, we’ve always been willing to help out, whether it’s another kid on the team or out in the community. We try to help out whenever we can.”
North wrestling coach David Grant said his team seems to be a go-to source whenever someone needs some help.
“Whenever they need us, the kids are ready to help out,” he said. “We’ve done this for a number of years, and it seems we’re the first place people and organizations such as Neighborhood Bridges look for volunteers.”
Six wrestlers recently helped a neighbor in need of assistance for a funeral.
Brennan Albertini (195 pounds), Bockarie (152), Evan Butcher (113), Nico Candido (182), Jake Gooding (126) and Nate Morse (138) were pallbearers for Gahanna resident Mary Ann Altizer, who passed away in January.
“My grandma met this lady at church, and she didn’t have anyone to carry her casket,” Morse said. “I sent a text out asking the team, and within 10 minutes I had six guys. That was quick, especially since it was like 7 or 8 p.m. on a Saturday night.
“It’s more about family than wrestling. It all ties together and the funeral thing kind of shows that.”
Rick Bannister said he started Neighborhood Bridges in 2017 as a response to the growing rate of poverty in suburban and rural America. He said the North wrestling program always comes to his aid with hard-working, polite individuals.
“We rely on volunteers to pick up and deliver furniture in a two-hour block of time, and they’re just great,” Bannister said. “We have a number of coaches willing to help us, but coach Grant and the North wrestling program leads it. They say yes every time.
“It’s a tribute to David Grant and the kind of coach he is and the kind of program he’s built. It’s always great to spend time with his wrestlers. I call them ‘repeat offenders,’ because they want to help us out as much as they can. They represent the best of our student-athletes, and I’m glad they’re learning life lessons such as these.”
Gooding said helping others puts everything in focus for the Warriors.
“I think that helps to build a culture around our program and it’s what makes the North wrestling program special,” he said. “Everyone understands there are things out there that are bigger than they are. Everything out there isn’t just high school wrestling. There are other things that are more important, like helping others.”
Butcher is new to the district and likes the community-oriented activities in which the Warriors are involved.
“I just moved here to Westerville, and our team is a family and is willing to help out whenever we can,” he said. “I’m glad I’m able to help out the community whenever I can.
"We’ve shoveled driveways and helped people out. Whenever we get the chance, it’s always like, ‘Let me help you.’ ”
Euton said the community service serves as team-bonding exercises that make everyone better.
"It really brings us together as a team,” he said. “For me with the Neighborhood Bridges, I’m not exposed to every part of this community and that helps me see the other side. Maybe I can help someone who’s less fortunate than me. I like being able to do that.”