Olympic qualifier wrestler to appear at Charleroi academy
After Jason Weslager concluded his stellar high school wrestling career at Belle Vernon Area with 114 wins, a 2004 national championship with the National High School Coaches Association, and a second place finish at the PIAA tournament in 2005, his next step was to wrestle in college.
He accomplished this while earning a degree in business marketing at Mercyhurst College, a Division II school in Erie.
Once his mat days were concluded, Weslager stayed in Erie where he was an assistant for two years at Fort LeBoeuf High School, including in 2010 when the Bison won a PIAA title.
He returned to his alma mater the next year and spent the past three seasons as an assistant under Jack Jolley at BVA.
This past season, Weslager was named the 2012-13 Section 2 assistant coach of the year.
So with his active days behind him and considering his love for amateur wrestling, how else could Weslager stay involved?
He opened the Odyssey Wrestling Academy in April 2012 in Charleroi and it is open to kids from second grade up.
“I love the sport of wrestling and from my first day as an assistant at Fort LeBoeuf, I was hooked onto coaching,” he said. “It is an awesome feeling to see a kid find success and watch them develop their wrestling ability over time.”
Weslager and his high school coach, Mel Gray, run the school.
Gray has more than 38 years of experience including being a member of the U.S. National team and a coach at the former Olympic training center in Denver.
“We had 30 to 35 students in season and 10 to 25 during the off-season, depending on the day,” Weslager said. “The best wrestlers are the ones who do additional training on top of their school affiliated practices.
“Our idea to open up the school was because we wanted to provide an affordable training opportunity for Mon Valley wrestlers.”
On June 14 and 15, Odyssey is bringing in Jake Herbert, an Olympic qualifier at the 2012 games, for a two-day seminar.
“We hope to draw a solid number of wrestlers,” Weslager said. “Our mission statement is to raise the overall wrestling level in the Mon Valley area, and this will help.”
While Weslager grew up on the mat, he and his business partner, Chaz Sztroin, added on to the school this past November.
Named Octane MMA, the school features several forms of mixed martial arts.
Sztroin has an extensive background in Tang Soo Do and also on staff is Patrick Pasterick, a Monessen native who has a purple belt under the Danillo Cherman Academy in Connecticut.
There are currently 10 MMA students, and the minimum age to join is 16.
“We offer classes in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, wrestling for mixed martial arts, and kickboxing,” Weslager said.
“People take (MMA) classes for many different reasons including getting in better shape, learn self-defense techniques, and burn calories.”
Both Odyssey and Octane offer a brief, free-trial period.
Bill Hughes is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.