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Bow native Borak helps revive UNH’s club wrestling team

  • Mark Borak sizes up an opponent from Campbell during his time with the Bow wrestling team. Rich Miyara file photo / NH Sports Photography

  • Bow’s Mark Borak (right) has his hand raised by the referee after winning a match against Campbell last season. Rich Miyara file photo / NH Sports Photography



Monitor staff
Wednesday, December 05, 2018

The doubt in the room wasn’t enough to dissuade Mark Borak Jr.

As he made his way to his very first practice for the University of New Hampshire’s club wrestling team earlier this fall, shoes and headgear in hand, Borak quickly realized his equipment wouldn’t be necessary.

Instead of a room full of eager athletes, Borak was greeted by the program’s head coach and college’s sports club coordinator who informed him that the team would be inactive this year due to a lack of interest.

As they continued to explain to Borak why it wouldn’t work out, all Borak could think was why not?

“I just decided that I wasn’t really going to take no for an answer,” said Borak, a former wrestling standout at Bow High School who won the NHIAA 152-pound title last season in Division III. “I knew no one else would (do it) and I knew after that meeting, the mood in the room was, ‘Oh crap, I guess there’s no wrestling club.’

“It was one of those things where what if I brought it back? What if we made this happen? What if we got a team together and ended up going to nationals this year? Just the challenge and the what-if factor was totally enough for me to pick this thing back up and do everything in my power,” Borak said.

A little more than two months after that meeting and Borak, a first-year student, has revitalized the club team, taking on the role of president, captain and breathing new life into a wrestling program that nearly slipped through the cracks.

On Oct. 1, UNH had just five athletes on the roster, was in desperate need of coaches and had a bleak outlook on returning to the mats.

But through Borak’s recruiting (using flyers and word of mouth), persistence and a little help from New Hampshire’s wrestling community, the Wildcats are up to 30 committed wrestlers, have filled out the club’s student leadership team and are on the verge of selecting their new head coach in former UNH All-American wrestler Tod Thone.

“For (Borak) to go out and find 23-plus guys that are willing to form a team, it takes a lot of persistence and organization,” Thone said. “It just shows you how good of a drive he has and how bad he wants it.”

And according to Borak’s high school coach, that drive is nothing new.

“It’s awesome to see him do that,” said Brock Hoffman, the varsity wrestling coach at Bow. “He has as much drive now as he did when he left Bow. It’s just great to see him giving back and kind of creating a program of his own.”

Thone, who was part of the club’s legendary coaching staff along with National Collegiate Wrestling Association Hall of Fame member Henry Marsh back in 2011, first heard about the opening from Oyster River High School wrestling coach Kimberly Strout.

Strout coaches her son Noah (the 145-pound Division III champion last season) on the independent Bobcats team and empathized with Borak’s predicament, joining the club’s coaching staff and offering to help in any way she could.

“She said, ‘I want UNH to have a team,’ ” Thone said. “She’s an independent with her son and she knows how it feels to not have a team. She took the initiative in stepping up and trying to find out how to get UNH back on the mat.”

There were plenty of other helping hands along the way, too.

Along with Strout and Thone, Daric Buttrick, an assistant coach last year, has stayed on to help Borak, and Matt Smith, owner of Smitty’s Wrestling Barn in Kingston, provided opportunities to practice.

“(Buttrick) is a great fit because he has a lot of knowledge of the sport and a commitment to the team,” Borak said. “(Smith) gave us an opportunity at his facilities, so we’ve had some practices but just haven’t been able to do it on campus.”

Borak, though, is hoping that all changes soon.

“I contacted Campus Recreation and we finalized a practice time at UNH,” Borak said, “so in terms of getting back on the mats here, that’s going to happen as soon as we get back from winter break.”

(Jay McAree can be reached at 369-3371, jmcaree@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JayMcAree.)