HARRINGTON PARK, N.J. -- When the new wrestling director stepped in to take over the Northern Valley PAL league, he was also stepping back in time.
Scott Kolkebeck of Harrington Park wrestled with the club as a youth in the late 1980s and mid-1990s, the father of two said.
Now Kolkebeck's 9-year-old son is starting his fourth year with Northern Valley PAL Junior Knights Wrestling.
The league serves Norwood, Northvale, Old Tappan, Harrington Park and Rockleigh.
"The program has been around 25-plus years. It's always been very strong," he said.
Just as he's back to the mats with his son, it's not unusual for Kolkebeck to bump into former teammates he wrestled against in his youth, he noted.
"The league itself, Twin County Junior Wrestling , has grown considerably in the past 10 years."
Kolkebeck's goal when he took the Northern Valley reins in 2016 was to expand the program after several years of stagnancy.
"The community had no idea a wrestling program existed. We did a total rebranding. We got lawn signs and did a big public awareness campaign because many people don’t understand the sport of wrestling," he said.
"We want to be seen as a feeder league for the high school."
The rebranding included tweaking the team's name with the word "Knights" to better mirror the mascot of the Northern Valley and Old Tappan regional high schools.
"We're one of the few leagues that draw from all five towns. We want to be seen as a feeder league for the high school," he said.
Kolkebeck brought the team online with a website, Facebook page and automated registration. He also hired a team photographer.
"Last year we had 45 kids but only two new kids in kindergarten. We sorely needed to spread the depth of our ages and get some new kids. We were too top heavy."
His outreach efforts paid off. The program had 30 new wrestlers come into the program this year.
High school wrestlers past and present help out with practices and in return the team tries to support their home meets at home.
"We try to get everyone to sit in the same section and cheer on the high school kids," he said.
This summer, Kolkebeck is planning wrestling clinics and field trips.
"We want to keep them together — form a brotherhood of wrestlers — so they maintain the bond. Do some clinics, take in a ball game."
The season started Jan. 5.
Click here for more information about the league.
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