Recognizing the growing epidemic of opioid addiction on Long Island, the varsity wrestling teams at Oyster Bay and Locust Valley high schools became the first to commit to an island-wide campaign to “Take Down Drugs.” The campaign, launched by the Friends of Long Island Wrestling, in conjunction with the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, aims to keep youngsters on a healthy, drug-free path by promoting the benefits of wrestling, and by offering ways to support local wrestling programs and local drug counseling services.
The teams were recognized with certificates of participation by Jerry Seckler, president of the Friends of Long Island Wrestling, during a ceremony that took place before a wrestling match at Oyster Bay High School.
“This is one of the major problems we have in our communities, particularly on Long Island,” said Seckler. “There is nothing to insulate the kids against using drugs and we know that if we get kids young enough in wrestling, they will not be into drugs. We have a whole educational program that we are instituting and we hope to go national [with the campaign] by next year.”
In his presentation, Seckler praised the teams for being the first varsity programs to promote the campaign and for setting an example of living healthy, focused lifestyles through wrestling.
Longtime wrestling coach Doug Axman spearheaded the teams’ participation. Currently assistant coach for OBHS’s wrestling team, he was head varsity wrestling coach for Locust Valley from 1988-2007. In 2017, he was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and received the Lifetime Service Award for his dedication to the sport and for his success as an athlete and a coach. He is also a member of the board of directors for the Friends of Long Island Wrestling.
“We are all aware of the problems and dangers of heroin and opioid addiction, and the sport of wrestling is an excellent way to promote awareness because the sport instills the qualities of discipline, dedication and the lifestyle of doing the right things,” Axman said. “I think it’s basically just the type of athlete a wrestler is…if you keep promoting that, then you really are on the right track. That’s why it’s such a perfect match.”