Drexel University wrestling coach Matt Azevedo talks during a clinic on Saturday at Hoosick Falls Central School
Drexel University wrestling coach Matt Azevedo talks during a clinic on Saturday at Hoosick Falls Central School (Adam Samrov / Bennington Banner)

HOOSICK, N.Y. - As college freshmen this year, Cornell's Nahshon Garrett and Gabe Dean each reached the podium at the NCAA championships.

Successful in their first year at the highest level, the pair were at Hoosick Falls Central School on Saturday - along with Drexel head coach Matt Azevedo - at a youth camp for about 60 wrestlers from the area.

"You do well in wrestling and have the skills people are seeing. I love the camp environment because I can give back to the kids," said Garrett, a California native. "I know when I was younger, I didn't have money for the camps. So it's near and dear to my heart to give back and show the kids how wrestling can be fun and also change their lives."

The clinic brought out wrestlers from 5 to 17 and from all over, including as far away as Ogdensburg.

"Hyping the camps and getting the kids fired up to learn is something they take and enjoy and that can last a lifetime," Garrett said. "We are teaching specialty moves, ones they see on TV, but we also make sure we stick to the basics and fundamentals, how to be the most effective wrestler."

The camp was organized by Michael Laporte, the coach and coordinator of the youth program in Hoosick Falls.

"There's other events going on [in the area], but to still pull these numbers is encouraging," Laporte said. "It's the sign of a healthy sport that's heading in the right direction."

Garrett, wrestling at 125 pounds as the No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, went up against Illinois' Jesse Delgado in the final - the third time in the season the two faced off. Garrett gave it everything, but came out on the short end of a 3-2 decision, one of only two defeats in a 34-2 inaugural campaign.

"My goal was to be a national champ but making it that far in the tournament, it shows there's always something to work on," Garrett said. "I have what it takes to be a champ and I left it all on the mat. Sometimes when you do that it doesn't always go in your favor, but there are only certain things you can control."

Dean was 40-3 in his first year, losing in the semifinal 5-3 to three-time national champ Ed Ruth from Penn State. He came back to finish third at 184 pounds.

Dean said that when young wrestlers ask about the match, he tells them that you learn the most from your losses.

"You have to take the things you learn, develop and make sure you don't make the same mistakes [again]," Dean said.

Hoosick Falls sophomore wrestler Nolan Foster said that having Garrett, Dean and Azevedo teach their craft is invaluable.

"I can take pretty much everything from this camp and use it," said Foster, who made it to the New York state tournament this season. "Everything a Division I wrestler is doing will make you better. And [Azevedo] trains wrestlers to be a national champion."

"It's humbling to see these kids, they have dedication," Dean said. "Wrestling is the hardest sport there is and to see 60 kids show up, it says something how awesome the kids are around here. [Mike] has built a great system here. That's your feeder for high school and college and it all starts somewhere."

Azevedo was an assistant at Cornell the first year the clinic was offered, but has continued to participate after taking the head coach job at Drexel.

"For Matt to come in and dedicate his time, it's great," Laporte said. "He's such a technican and he communicates well to the kids."

Laporte said one of the most important lessons came in the morning session.

"During Nahshon's part of the clinic, he said that practice doesn't make perfect - that perfect practice makes perfect," Laporte said.