Josh Condon, a member of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling team, left a partially constructed Alton Park home Friday with paint on his forehead, a little dirt under his nails and grime on his hands.
He wasn’t alone. Condon and former NCAA qualifier Dan Waddell, who are expected to battle for the Mocs’ 157-pound starting job, were among more than two dozen UTC wrestlers who spent the day as free labor for Habitat for Humanity.
“Our guys love to work,” Mocs coach Heath Eslinger said. “We’re fortunate to have a team that doesn’t mind getting their hands dirty.”
They hammered, caulked and painted — in morning and afternoon shifts — to help move the house closer to completion for some family. The morning crew painted every wall inside the four-bedroom home and the afternoon crew matched them by putting up insulation, applying finishing touches and priming and painting interior and exterior trim.
Assistant head coach Rocco Mansueto initiated and the finalized plans for the project.
“Last spring in Nashville we assisted with flood relief. We helped clean up for two days. You felt terrible for the people affected by the flooding, but our kids knew for sure when they left that there was more to life than wrestling,” Mansueto said. “They enjoyed the work, and I think they came together and worked well as a group.”
When Mansueto called Habitat for Humanity director of volunteers Dawn Stoike, he asked for a task that might be too tough manually for other volunteers and something the Habitat group really needed help with.
“We have 30 guys who if I said I needed to tear down a house in a three-hour span they’d think they could do it,” Mansueto said.
Friday was actually a break from and yet an extension of preseason training.
“We figured these guys have all this energy so why not use it to help someone else? The guys have been training really hard the last four weeks, and this week we pulled back and got creative with their training from basketball and Frisbee golf to this task today,” Mansueto said.
Eslinger, who reported after lunch with the afternoon crew, was delighted with the way the day went.
“The morning guys actually painted the entire inside in a couple of hours, and the [Habitat] supervisor actually ran out of stuff for the afternoon guys to do,” he said. “Any time we can give back to the community, it’s a positive. The community keeps us in business, and we want to pay back in some way for what the community has given to us.
“And any time you have young people in a capacity to serve, it is healthy both short term and long term.”
The Mocs have another project scheduled Friday when they’ll help set up the 2010 Campout to Stamp out Family Homelessness at the First Tennessee Pavilion.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...