How does the interscholastic sport of wrestling share any relationships with geriatric clinics of wellness?

Retired orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Richard Giustra, 77, who practiced in Brunswick from 1973-1999, is extensively involved with both ends of the age spectrum. Retirement is supposed to be a time of reflection (and perhaps golf ?), but Rich, or Doc as he is affectionately known to his former patients and his budding wrestlers, is passionate, and perhaps even obsessed, about health and fitness at all age levels. He is a lecturer locally for senior groups while at the same time involved with youth wrestling. His goal is the enjoyment of life through physical wellness and fitness of the body.

For primarily senior audiences, he has lectured at People Plus and the Bath Area Family YMCA, and at Brunswick Landing. For the younger set his passion for wrestling as a way to maintain body flexibility and endurance is his obsession.

Herein lies the thread that connects the two.

“In my illustrated lectures, I stress muscular and skeletal wellness of the extremities and the lower back. In wrestling these are the same crucial areas of development especially in young athletes. Even beyond wrestling, these areas of the body are quite critical in most sports,” notes Giustra.

As a former orthopedic surgeon, his creds and experience are obvious factors in his approach to senior wellness and adolescent fitness. As captain of the l962 Cornell wrestling team and having been involved in freestyle competition in Europe for the Air Force in 1969, his mat background is noteworthy. He was an assistant coach at Hyde School in Bath for 20 years, and he also has served as an assistant at Lisbon High School.

He is presently involved with the Maine Trappers group out of Hyde and has helped with the fledgling Brunswick Junior High School program initiated last year, an endeavor spearheaded by Mt. Ararat coach Erick Jensen and members of his staff. Most recently he has directed the Take Down Wrestling Clinic under the auspices of the Brunswick Recreation Department. Ironically, he started a Rec. wrestling program 41 years ago when his children were young.

“My goal is to introduce youth to a sport I love, which has been such a physical part of my life. I will go anywhere I can to try to help and inspire young wrestlers. Maine is becoming such a fertile ground as the sport seems to be taking hold and flourishing especially at the youth level,” extols Giustra.

His approach with the older audiences as well as the youngsters he works with might seem so similar in implementation. He has developed what he calls “Rollerlates” with seniors, which is a combination of roller therapy and pilates, or core exercise, best done on a mat. He is presently conducting classes in this new approach at the Brunswick Landing YMCA, where he stresses such areas as maintaining balance and the proper way to fall as well the ability to get up after the fall.

Anyone who has ever wrestled or even watched the sport can see the similarities of approach in both activities, whether it be competitive wrestling or prolonging flexibility and wellness in seniors Giustra hopes to get The Highlands involved in Rollerlates and sees the possibility of not only classes for the residents but even pioneering sessions for assisted living and Alzheimer patients. While his mantra “Win From Within” for his youth programs emblazoned on their clinic T-shirts is primarily for his young grapplers, some of the training activities can be shared with seniors who want to continue some semblance of balance and strength with similar exercises. Both wrestling and senior fitness are individual efforts where one can derive as much as one puts into it.

Giustra continues, “While the goal for the older body is to promote longevity through physical activity, the goal for younger athletes is an appreciation of a sport in which they might be able to compete, in that it does not require some of the physical attributes necessary in the more well-known endeavors. It seems Brunswick is one of the last schools that does not offer a wrestling program, and I would love to see BHS down the road put a team out on their own mat, in their own uniforms, and in their own gym in front of a huge crowd.”

Presently several Dragon wrestlers go over to Mt. Ararat in a co-op situation with their neighbors in daily practices and interscholastic meets. The Brunswick Recreation Department seems to have shared some of Gustra’s enthusiasm for wrestling by having purchased its own mat and occupies its own playing surface in the gym area.

According to Troy Smith of the Brunswick Rec., “Wrestling is obviously gaining in popularity. Topsham and Bath both have youth programs, and we felt this would be a great addition to our own facility. Youth wrestling for both boys and girls, grades 1-8, will be offered this winter under the tutelage of Jeff Dolley and Giustra.”

Giustra shared a couple of his “best moment” scenarios in his association with both seniors and youth.

“One 80-year-old women came up to me after trying one of our senior exercises so thrilled that she was finally able to do it.. And one 10-year old shouted from the middle of the mat at a recent clinic session, ‘Look, Coach, I can do that move and it works!’”

Someone once said, “Unless you try to do something other than what you have already mastered, you will never grow. No matter what your lot in life, build something on it. Some people dream of worthy accomplishment, while others stay awake and experience it.”

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