Athlete of Week: Coppola leads new club on the mat

coppolaAfter an injury prevented him from chasing his dream for a SCHSL state championship last winter, Christian Coppola spent all summer trying to make up for lost mat time. He almost won an even bigger title, finishing second in the 125-pound class at the prestigious Nuway Summer Nationals in New Jersey, which saw more than 600 wrestlers compete.

“I qualified for states but I suffered a concussion in Lower States that kept me out,” said Coppola, who was voted the Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week Award. “For the last two summer I’ve been training to try to be a champion but this one was a lot more fun because of the club. Being able to train with other guys helped to make me better.”

Coppola was one of the founding members of the upstart Grand Strand Hurricanes Wrestling Club, which was designed to offer kids a more affordable opportunity for summer training. Donated space at the X Gym, mats and involvement by parents, coaches and local politicians provided a new format for wrestlers to work on their sport year-round.

“We worked out about five or six days a week, and we had about 14 guys come out in our first year,” Coppola. “There were a lot of guys from Carolina Forest, which was great since I am transferring there this year. I already knew some of the guys, but it was nice to have people to work out with and get to know them better.”

Coppola is moving from North Myrtle Beach to Carolina Forest but plans to stay active in the club in hopes of earning a college scholarship for wrestling. Because there are so few college programs that offer wrestling as a sanctioned sport, Coppola knows he has his work cut out for him, but he has never been one to shy away from hard work.

“I’ve been practicing year-round for the past two years hoping it would pay off in a college scholarship, and I’ve got three schools interested in me,” Coppola said. “I just want to keep working hard and try to win a state championship in my senior year. And I hope to see the club keep growing and give more young kids the chance to wrestle.”

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