Light: Stonington's 'team of one' who wrestles at Fitch
Groton — Parental dilemma: Your child happens to be pretty good at a particular sport ... and yet the high school in your town doesn't offer it. Hmmm.
Do you picket outside the superintendent's office?
Happily for the Light family of Stonington, they just summoned Nancy Kosman.
Nancy: dental hygienist by day at Contemporary Dentistry in Groton. All other times, she's the First Lady of Wrestling here in our corner of the world and the mother to former Fitch great Jarod Kosman. And it was thanks to Nancy that the kid who stood above all the others on the 152-pound podium Saturday at the Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament was still wrestling at all.
Kosman knew the "team of one" concept existed in high school wrestling. She overheard Sam Light's dad, Jeff, talk about how Stonington High, where Sam would attend, didn't offer the sport. Her advice: "Come to Fitch!"
Sam Light, otherwise a Stonington Bear — his wrestling singlet is brown and white — wrestles with Fitch as a "team of one," the CIAC's option that allows kids to stay in the sport they love.
Light, who moves on to the Class S state tournament this weekend, won the 152-pound title in his "home" gym at Fitch.
Jeff and Valerie Light, Sam's parents, tended to the details four years ago when their son was a freshman. Soon, Sam was a Balcon. (Half bear, half falcon).
"I remember my first day in vivid detail," Light was saying after Saturday's match, during which he defeated New London's Max Commander, 6-4 in overtime. "I walked in with my mom through the gym doors. We started walking down the hall toward he locker room. I was this tiny little freshman. I remember all the wrestling team sprinting out of the locker room door into the gym. Coach Kos (Fitch coach Mark Kosman) walked out and shook my hand. He said, "'welcome to the team.'"
Then Light truly got welcomed.
"The first practice, they had just lunging around the entire gym with 80-pound sandbags," Light said. "Was I scared? Hell yeah I was scared. But I have to say that they received me well from the first minute."
What spectators saw Saturday was the finished product. Or a facsimile thereof. What they did not see: The unspoken agony of constant effort that contributed to it. All the other Fitch wrestlers went from class to the locker room. Sam Light came from another school.
"When I was going into high school I thought maybe I'd choose a sport at my school. But as soon as I started coming here, I realized I couldn't give this up," Light said. "The coaches have taken me in and helped me in ways I can't begin to explain. It's a sport like no other. It's really impacted me in so many ways. I couldn't give it up when I got to high school."
Other athletes at Stonington have shared experiences. Soccer. Basketball. Imagine being Light, a team of one, at some other school. In a sport unfamiliar to the Land of Brown and White.
"Once I started winning my sophomore year, I caught their attention," Light said. "I had done track the spring season of my freshman year at Stonington. I made the ECC finals sophomore year (in wrestling). My track coaches were posting to Twitter. That was cool."
Light was part of an interesting day Saturday for the Fitch program. The "team of one" was a champion. Two freshmen made the finals. Good stuff happening in the wrestling room at 101 Groton Long Pt. Road.
"It really sucks because my team points don't go to Fitch," Light said. "They're literally my family. I want to help them as much as they helped me."
Light plans to help his quasi alma mater next year, even though he probably won't wrestle in college. He won't have time, going pre-med and all. He's been accepted to the University of Vermont honors college and awaits word from the University of Michigan.
"I'll try to do club wrestling wherever I am," Light said. "When I'm back for winter break I'll be back there to help the kids. This program means a lot to me."
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro