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Mat Rats start season with early meet in Fla.
The 2008-09 Mat Rat competitive wrestlers and coaches: in back, Ernie D'Alto, Tyler Fisher, Philip Howe, Bryan Foster, Travis Wells; in front, Zachary Terry, Andrew Houghton and Matthew Wells. - photo by Patty Leon
The Liberty County Recreation Department’s wrestling team, the Mat Rats, opened up the 2008-09 season by competing at the fourth annual Early Bird Pool Style Open Wrestling Tournament down in Orange Park, Fla.
Last season was the first full season for the Mat Rat team, who successfully medaled at nearly every event. Mat Rat coach Philip Howe said he thinks his wrestlers are ready for the challenge this new season presents with returning competitors Matthew Wells, Bryan Foster and Andrew Houghton and newcomers Tyler Fisher and Zachary Terry.
“Mason and Andrew both did very well last year, Bryan had a limited schedule, but he should see a lot more action this year,” Howe said.
“Tyler Fisher, Trey Neal and Zachary Terry also made the meet team. Zach is in a difficult weight class, but he is big for his age. If he stays positive and continues to work hard he will do well. Neal is a first year wrestling but he has the natural instincts and athletic abilities and we expect some great things from him.î
Howe said they started practice a few weeks ago and it was a rough beginning getting his wrestlers back in form.
"They spent the long summer with video games and it was not good,î he said. "We started them back with cardio and refreshing them on all the moves and getting their head back into wrestling. They came around quickly, it didn't take them long. They came in out of shape but they turned it around quickly."
In addition to the new competitors Howe said 14 new wrestlers have signed on for the season, learning Greco-Roman, Folk-style and Free-style wrestling. As the new wrestlers perfect their skills they have the opportunity to compete at USA Wrestling Sanctioned meets.
Wanting to promote wrestling within Liberty County and develop a better appreciation for the sport, Howe formed a non-profit 501©3 corporation called Coastal Athletic Association. His first task was to look for sponsors to help with the cost of the tournament, travel expenses and uniforms. He was able to sign up a few sponsors but Howe said he would like to see the list grow.
"We got Performance Power from Savannah, River Supply from Savannah, Ware Metal Works from Savannah, Hinesville Ford in Hinesville and Nicky Van Marine in Savannah,î he said. "We raised enough money from those groups to cover some of our travel expenses and got all the kids singlets, jackets, hoodies and gym bags for when they travel."
Howe said all his volunteer coaching staff returned this season and he added a new coach. Assisting Howe is Ernie D'Alto, Travis Wells and Tony Proulx who was a former wrestling coach at Benedictine and Groves.

The Mat Rats have 10 meets on this season's schedule so far and the tournament in Orange Park was the first one. Howe said anyone wishing to follow the team's progress can visit their web-site. It contains membership and sponsorship information, team schedules, photos and more. For more information visit
The Courier will bring the results from the tournament once they become available.

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