YONKERS, N.Y. – Ibrahim Simreen was quite surprised when he joined the Yonkers Publilc Schools varsity wrestling room as a seventh-grader.
“I always thought it was going to be like the WWE,” said Simreen, a senior at Riverside High School in Yonkers. “Once I got used to it, the coaches told me that if I stuck with it I could be really good.”
Simreen’s development as a wrestler has coincided with the evolution of the program under coach Pete Vulpone.
Vulpone, who led Ardsley High School to a pair of Section 1 Division II titles (2004 and ’06) came to Yonkers six years ago. Yonkers’ high schools, Roosevelt and Saunders, had wrestling programs, but when Vulpone arrived, all of the wrestlers came together as Yonkers’ Public Schools.
“We all represent Yonkers,” Simreen said. “We've gotten better, as a team, every year and every year we get a lot of guys coming into the room.”
What Simreen and many of the wrestlers do, at their respective high schools, is recruit the guys who not have made the basketball team or are undecided about what sport to participate in. This leads to the large numbers in the room. This year, Simreen said the first day of practice had more than 50 wrestlers.
“We never thought the program was going to become successful, but the support we have received from the coaches and Jim Rose has been great,” Simreen said.
Rose is the Yonkers Public Schools Athletic Director. Vulpone is assisted by Mark Taylor, Sr., a former Section 1 wrestling champion, and Chris Ball.
During Vulpone’s tenure, Simreen noted the program has gone from having one mat to three. Yonkers hosts the Chris Hernandez Memorial Wrestling Tournament every January and in 2011, hosted the Section 1 Division I Wrestling Championships at Lincoln High School.
“Everything Coach Vulpone has done is to help us all get better and help the program,” Simreen said. “He works us hard, but he makes sure we have the love for it. Everyone is grateful to him, as well as Coach Taylor and Coach Ball. We all want to do well because we don’t want to let them down.”
Simreen, in his third year as a captain, is proud to have experienced the program’s rise.
“To see us grow from something starting at the bottom into where we are now, is unbelievable,” Simreen said. “It has been a real honor to be a captain and be a part of this."