By Frank Mustac, Special Writer
An impassioned request that a dedicated practice space be built for the Hopewell Valley Central High School wrestling team was made by three residents at Monday’s school board meeting.
Dave de Dufour, Eileen Roskos and Ron Venezia — all from Hopewell Township — asked board members that the proposed 10,500-square-foot addition called an Arts and Wellness Space include a room for the wrestlers.
“A dedicated wrestling facility is a necessity. It should not be a multipurpose room with a basketball court on it. It should be a room for dance, wrestling and martial arts,” said Mr. de Dufour, a 1980 graduate who said that he has been involved with Hopewell wrestling for years.
The estimated $5.2 million cost for the Arts and Wellness Space would be paid for as part of a proposed $36 million facilities bond to fund repair work and construction at several buildings. A referendum date in September is eyed in Hopewell Township and Pennington and Hopewell boroughs.
The major components of the Arts and Wellness Space are a theater space for students enrolled in performing arts courses, and a new gymnasium primarily for physical education classes.
Mr. de Dufour said a dedicated space for the wrestlers is also needed to help prevent the spread of skin rashes and other ailments.
“The children are exposed to a lot of skin diseases through wrestling only because of the way the mats are stored, and the way they have to roll them up and the way they have to pick them up,” he said.
Currently, the wrestling mats have to be moved to and from the auxiliary cafeteria, where they are stored. In new construction, wrestling mats would be stored in a designated area in the Arts and Wellness Space, but would still have to be moved when needed.
“I’ve lived with eight years of impetigo and ringworm in my house,” Mr. de Dufour. “I’m just saying I’ve lived with it, and it’s not a pleasant thing.”
Mr. de Dufour reminded school board members of the wrestling team’s winning tradition. Along with its overwhelming winning record over the past nine years, he said, “we have won eight of the last nine Mercer County tournaments — six in a row.”
“The education system should be rewarding excellence,” he said. “I have never seen in Hopewell Valley a sport that deserves to be rewarded like the wrestling team does.”
Ms. Roskos and Mr. Venezia echoed much of what Mr. de Dufour told the school board.
Board of Education President Lisa Wolff thank the trio for “their passion.”
Superintendent Thomas Smith said “space is at a premium currently.”
“We would like to give all of our sports equal access to premium athletic environments, and we’re not doing that right now,” the superintendent said referring to the proposed Arts and Wellness Space. “And ‘premium’ is probably a bad choice of words; it’s really just ‘standard.’ To roll out wrestling mats from a would-be cafeteria is something we would like to avoid, if possible.”
“We hope to do it all with this space,” Dr. Smith said. “We think that with the design and the timing of it and with the proper construction, we can.”
Tripp Becker, athletic director for the regional district, said indoor space is also needed by other athletic teams and curriculum courses.
“Our wellness classes are doubled-up in both of our gyms right now, and there is still not enough room,” Mr. Becker said. “For wellness, we definitely need the space. For athletics, just doing a gym rotation schedule is brutal.”
Peter Griffin, supervisor for K-12 visual and performing arts, also spoke at the meeting, advocating for more space needed by students who also participate in award-winning programs.
He described an example of a lack of classroom space, saying, “Our theater program, which is recognized as one of the top theater programs in the state, has been doing classes in hallways for the last nine to 10 years.”
“The need for a teaching space for our theater program, the need for a black box theater, which would provide opportunity to house performances, lectures and recitals, is nothing new,” he said.
A black box theater is a stage without wings, scenery or curtains with seating on three sides.
By Frank Mustac, Special Writer